13th November 2020
As England completes the first week of being back in national lockdown, further strain is put onto relationships, particularly for separating couples who have found themselves ‘stuck’ living together in isolation.
We take a look at some options and considerations to make the next few weeks more bearable for those in this tricky situation…
Some couples whose relationships broke down during the first 12 week lockdown may not yet have had the chance to formally part ways before becoming trapped living together until early December. Others may have formally separated, yet due to job losses, financial pressures or property market hold-ups are continuing to live under the same roof.
If you think that the second lockdown will be too much of a strain on your mental health, will affect your work or your children, then it might be a sensible idea to explore your options for living apart.
Do you have an alternative place to stay? Is it feasible for you or your partner to leave your shared home? Consider the government guidelines about mixing with other households. If one of you were to move in with a friend or family member, you would not be able to see anyone else from other households (aside from your own children). The property market remains open during this lockdown, so unlike previously there is a possibility to start a new tenancy in rented accommodation. You might be very lucky to be able to purchase and move into a new home over the coming weeks, but estate agents and mortgage brokers are still working so shopping for a new home or preparing your house to go on the market is still possible.
If you are still sharing a home with an ex-partner the next few weeks could prove very difficult unless you are able to keep yourself busy outside of the home. At least with the first national lockdown there was the escape of going into the garden or getting outside. The cold, dark evenings ahead do not allow for much social interaction with others outside of your own household.
When possible try to get out of the house. The rules do allow you to meet up with one other person outside of your household outdoors for exercise. Try a crisp winter walk with a friend, or a light jog for a catch up.
Some separating couples have found themselves in a position where both are working from home which can also add to tensions. It is advised that you try to each have a dedicated workspace if possible, to give each other some space and boundaries. Try to take breaks at different times or work different hours if you can, to avoid getting in each other’s hair.
If you are still living together, but planning to formally part ways after lockdown is lifted or it becomes easier for you to move on then it is important, from the perspective of the courts, to be able to demonstrate that the relationship has irretrievably broken down in order to obtain the divorce.
Make sure you try to have your own space even when living under the same roof. If possible, each have your own rooms to sleep in, work from or relax in. It may be easier for both or you to adjust your usual time schedules for eating or getting up etc, to allow each other more space.
By continuing to live together you could find yourself eating meals together, watching TV shows or doing each other’s washing and chores – minimising this can help avoid confusion of emotions for you and your children, if you have any.
If you are living with an ex-partner who is mentally, emotionally or physically abusive towards you it is extremely important to seek advice and support. In some cases it is not simple to leave a toxic relationship, but it is imperative to consider your safety and the welfare of your children, if you have any. Lamb Brooks have worked together with the domestic abuse charity, the Dragonfly Project. Further information and support lines can be found by clicking here.
For couples in a position where they know their relationship is over, but they are not yet ready to start the divorce process, a separation agreement is a possibility. This will set out the terms of the relationship and how matters such as the family home, bills, debts or savings should be managed. A separation agreement does not dissolve the marriage and it is important to understand that you are still viewed as married from a legal perspective. A separation agreement can help give both parties peace of mind, but if a divorce is inevitable you may wish to start the divorce process instead.
A specialist family lawyer can help you decide which option or separation route is best for you based on your own individual circumstances.
For more information or to book an initial appointment to discuss your options, please call 01256 844888 to speak to a member of the Family Law Team.
If it is difficult to talk on the phone due to your living arrangements we are happy to have initial contact over email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or you can contact our online chat assistant via the website 24/7.
If discretion is important, we can organise for call backs to be at certain times that suit you or we are able to see you in person at our offices by pre-bookable appointment, which would take place in one of our covid-secure meeting rooms behind a screen for your peace of mind.
7 Tips to Cope With Separation During Lockdown
Cooped Up Couples: Is Lockdown the Final Straw?
10 Things You Can Do To Prepare For Divorce
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.
Lamb Brooks LLP
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