You Want to Separate Under One Roof

You Want To Separate Under One Roof

For many, a relationship breakdown brings logistical and/or financial difficulties that make it impossible for separate accommodation until an agreement on a full property division can be reached. As a consequence, many of these couples find themselves having to serve out a time of being separated whilst still living under the one roof. These arrangements can throw up a multitude of issues.  Some of the more common issues and the law’s answer to them are below:

  • Liability for mortgage repayments, rates and insurance attaches to the spouses per registration on title, joint registration means 50/50 liability etc. Under Family Law however, a Judge has the power to alter the percentage contributions according to individual capacity to pay and usually, regardless of actual use.
  • Liability for utility services such as electricity, telephone and data attaches to the spouse whose name is on the contract, but again, a Family Law Judge has the power to alter the percentage contributions. Here the division of liability for the item, more commonly reflects each spouse’s proportion of use.
  • Under the Qld Domestic Violence Act, each spouse is obligated to keep the peace with the other and respect the other’s privacy, any breaches of this conduct entitles the innocent spouse to make an Application for a Protection Order and where the breach(s) is serious the guilty spouse can be ordered to vacate the property.
  • It is possible to count the separation period under the one roof as part of the 12 months for a divorce, but independent evidence to prove the couple were in fact separated during this time is required. Consequently, it is often cheaper and easier to delay the count for the 12 months separation for a divorce until each spouse has taken up separate accommodation.
  • Whilst maintaining a separation under the one roof can certainly alleviate the financial and logistical difficulties of finding and financing separate accommodation, keeping estranged/warring spouses in close proximity to each other amplifies the risk of escalatory behaviour and when this takes hold, the fight typically becomes more bitter and more expensive to quell.

The decision to maintain a separation under the one roof therefore very much is a case of weighing up the benefits against the burdens.

Michael Zande is a Queensland Law Society accredited family law specialist with over 25 years experience in the field. He is the principal at Zande Law Solicitors, Suite 7, Norwinn Centre, 15 Discovery Drive, North Lakes. To contact Michael for advice, phone 3385 0999.

The information in this article is merely a guide and is not a full explanation of the law. This firm cannot take responsibility for any action readers take based on this information. When making decisions that could affect your legal rights, please contact us for professional advice.