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Boundaries during separation & divorce: the marital residence

When a marriage ends it can be disorienting for everyone. It may be difficult to figure out how to rebuild your life after separating and during the pending divorce. However, a good place to begin is with your boundary setting, particularly in your living space and by managing the co-parenting relationship.

The spouse who remains in the home

When a partner moves out, life may feel strange. This is probably also true for your ex and your children. The partner leaving the marital residence may have personal items left behind or even retained a set of keys. It is important to set appropriate boundaries from the beginning of the separation. If you are staying in the home with the children you may want to ask to have the keys returned or change your locks.

Let the ex pack, purge and remove

Let your ex pack up their belongings and do not throw their personal belongings away. Even if they try to push it back on you by telling you to throw it away it may be a better idea that they take the belongings and do it on their own. Their property is no longer your responsibility.

Give your ex a timeline for removing their items from the home or schedule a day and time for them to come and do so. If you are separated and worry that the scheduled pick up will result in an argument ask a neutral person to be present. If no agreement is possible then agree to leave the item at the home and resolve it at a later date during the property division phase of your divorce.

Demand and model respect for each other’s new residence

When the other parent comes to pick up the kids for parenting time, make it clear that they need to treat your home as your residence although they still own equity in the home or pay some of the expenses. This means that the other parent should knock and wait to be invited inside. When you go to retrieve the children from your ex's home make sure you use the same manners that you would with a stranger or a friend. Modeling respect sends a clear message to your ex about the boundaries you will draw as the relationship is redefined.

Treat it like a landlord tenant relationship

If either of you struggle with this change, it may make sense to model your interaction on a landlord-tenant relationship. This could include giving a minimum of a 24-hour notice prior to entering the home or each party attempting to find a mutually agreed upon time. Apply this philosophy to repairs or other home related concerns.

Change is hard

Changing your residence and moving apart is a big life change and change is difficult. By setting appropriate boundaries, each spouse can feel respected and safe in their own newly defined space. 

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