Q: When my Mum wanted to divorce my Dad twenty years ago he wouldn’t accept the marriage was over and agree to anything, so Mum had to take out a two year legal separation first. During those two years we all lived in the same house, although Mum and Dad lived separately. After that Mum cited unreasonable behaviour. Sadly I am now in a similar situation with my husband but a friend has told me these days you cannot divorce on grounds of unreasonable behaviour if you carry on living in the same house. Is this right?
A: The information your friend has given you is incorrect. The key issue is whether or not you are legally separated before you start divorce proceedings.
If you apply for a divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour there are time limits involved. You can continue living together in the same property but if you have continued living together for more than six months after discovering the most recently cited incident of unreasonable behaviour relied upon in a divorce petition, it will not be accepted by the Court.
If you are applying for divorce based on the grounds of two years’ separation by consent, however, you may still continue to live together under the same roof provided you live completely separately and apart. You would need to demonstrate this in respect of the domestic arrangements in place to include sleeping arrangements, chores and finances.
Clearly living together under the same roof separately is not ideal though and usually couples only do this if there are limited resources available and/or there is a dispute about how to resolve issues arising from the separation. It is often the case, however, that such matters can be resolved amicably to mutual benefit with the help of good legal advice and Mediation.
(Article published 16/01/2017)