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Separated but Under the Same Roof

This living situation requires couples like the Wests to establish some rules that go beyond the division of chores, expenses and child care. What if we’re having a disagreement? (Not in front of the kids, please.) What about dating? (Not in front of the kids, please.)

Understandably, the situation requires clarification to outsiders.

“It’s counterintuitive because the number one reason people get divorced is that they don’t want to live with that person anymore,” said Paul Talbert, a partner at Donohoe Talbert, a New York-based firm specializing in family law. “After making the most difficult decision you’ve probably ever made in your life, to leave a marriage, and then you don’t actually leave — it takes a special couple or a special reason.”

Covid was one such special reason. Abbie E. Goldberg, a professor of clinical psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., has tracked 300 separated and divorced individuals during the pandemic. For many families, she said, Covid packed a wicked, one-two punch: emotional upheaval coupled with the loss of a job or income.

For some people who lacked the means, breaking up was put on hold. “It’s the grin-and-bear-it scenario,” Dr. Goldberg said, “with some people saying they’d revisit the matter when their finances are stable.”

But break-up delays were also driven by what was best for the kids. “Children’s needs have become more pressing during the pandemic, and it’s easier to co-parent under one roof,” Ms. Greenberg said. “And if you have a kid who’s really depressed or having behavior issues, it may create more strain or be harder to manage as a single parent.”

Charissa Moses got married early in 2018, had her first child that December and had her second child a few months into the pandemic. “No child care. Both of us working from home. No wonder we didn’t make it,” said Ms. Moses, 32, the owner of a public relations firm in Pittsburgh. She shares a five-bedroom colonial with her former husband, who asked that his name not be used to protect his privacy.

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