Our 'Alternative' Separation: A Case Study
When most couples decide to separate or divorce they generally make plans by taking finances into consideration first. This usually means that one partner will leave the shared home and may contribute financially, while spending limited time with their child/children.
John and Olivia Gibson, both 40, chose to take a different course of action when their 12-year marriage came to an end. Instead of making arrangements to split responsibility and have the Children Live In Two Households, the couple opted to maintain a familiar, comfortable and consistent environment for their 10-year-old twins.
Home SwapJohn and Olivia agreed to swap homes on a two-week rota. The first two weeks would ensure that John, a self-employed financial advisor, would live and work from the flat in Oxted, Surrey that the couple had agreed to share as a rental let. Olivia would remain with their daughters in the family home in Horley, Surrey, and would take full responsibility for childcare arrangements while working part-time as a self-employed courier. At the end of the two weeks, John and Olivia packed essentials and swapped homes for the following fortnightly period.
“The fact that the girls’ lives and interests were not disrupted in any way meant that Olivia and I could slot into this arrangement very easily,” John explains. “The girls continued to see both of us for concentrated periods of time, so to them it soon became an acceptable and agreeable arrangement.”
Flexible ParentingBeing flexible about Parental Responsibility is the key to finding the right level of balance where separation is concerned. Many couples find that the breakdown in communication escalates rather rapidly, and it is therefore difficult to find alternative solutions to creating further complications concerning custodial issues. If however, a couple are able to maintain open communication, and are willing to share all aspects of parental responsibility, a flexible alternative arrangement can work successfully.
“Even with a flexible arrangement like ours we had to be willing to always put the girls’ wellbeing first. This meant that we both had to be flexible enough to change our personal arrangements at the drop of a hat if something happened and we had to change duty days at the spur of the moment.
“On the plus side, having time away from responsibilities and parenting meant that we both had the opportunity of experiencing a single life again without having to deal with the insecurities and pressures that suddenly finding yourself in that role could bring. It was like having the best of both worlds.”
Separation SolutionBecause the level of personal communication remained good between John and Olivia they were happy to spend two years swapping homes on a fortnightly basis. It wasn’t until Olivia started a new relationship that the couple felt it was time to re-evaluate the arrangement. At that point in time they were ready to work out the next step in their separation plan and to move on to Divorce. As part of the divorce settlement one partner also agreed to buy the other’s share of the marital home.
“Although it took us two years to separate completely, doing it this way has meant that the girls haven’t had to deal with feeling unsettled. They now live with me in the family home and spend weeks with their mum and her new partner in their new home. Everyone is happy.”