Economy Forces Divorced Couples to Live Together

Expert: Divorced couples in the same home can survive, should plan an escape.

February 19, 2009, 11:50 AM

Feb. 19, 2009 — -- Tony and Dawn Joyce of Chicago have four kids, share family meals and take turns doing the housework.

They sound like a typical married couple, but they're not. The Joyces divorced over a year ago but, due to financial restraints, continue living together.

"There are times when it's very frustrating and confusing for our children," Dawn told "Good Morning America." "I would love to move on. I would love for Tony and I to have separate residences right now. We just could not afford it."

The Joyce's living situation may sound unique, but they're far from the only ones living in such a situation.

There are blogs exclusively devoted to divorced couples forced to live together.

"It is possible to live together," one blogger wrote. "You just have to be very grown up and learn to let go of the pain of the actual divorce."

According to divorce attorneys, it is a growing trend.

"I actually had a case where we went into court and the judge put an order in stating what days they were allowed to use the kitchen, and who got to use the living room, who got to use the television," said divorce attorney Carin Constantine.

For the Joyces, the situation can be awkward. They have different bedrooms now and Dawn has a new boyfriend.

"There are times when it'd be nice to be able to escape and go… and not have to, you know, have a confrontation on some of the issues that we may not agree on," Tony said.

The bright side, Tony said, is that he's able to see his kids more often that he otherwise would.

The New Rules of Marriage: Tips for Dealing With Family

According to family therapist and author Terry Real, there are a few things people can do even in these complicated situations to make their life easier.

In his book, "The New Rules of Marriage," Real lays out what families can do. He lent "GMA" some of those tips today.

"Let's remember: you don't get along. That's why you got divorced to begin with," Real said. "Particularly with children, you have to be good roommates to each other."

To Real, this means "come hell or high water, you're not disrespectful to your partner. You do not sit on the receiving end of disrespect and do nothing about it," he said.

"If you're yelling and screaming and carrying on in front of the kids, one of you needs to find a couch somewhere. Maybe you can handle it, but it's abusive to the children and has to stop."

"You are divorced. This is what we call a mixed message," Real said. "So you have one goal which is to get all your ducks in a row and leave as quickly as possible."

"You do want to keep as much space as possible. If there's separate bedrooms, by all means. Clearly, you don't want to be having sex with each other. That is really confusing. I think you should not be dating other people. Keep your love life out," he said.

According to Real, divorced parents should not bring other love interests into the home and in front of the kids.

"Don't expose your kids to them," he said. "One of you has a broken heart. It's cruel to be telling that person about your love life. If you're going to live with an ex-spouse, be considerate."

"Every kid, no matter what they say or think, is going to want mommy and daddy to come back together. It's really torturing them to say 'we're getting a divorce. What's for breakfast?'" Real said. "It's very confusing and no kid is going to understand that. You say 'We're not getting back together. We're doing this because we have to.'"

Most importantly, Real repeated, is that one parent "get out."

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