4 Considerations for ‘Sleep Divorce’ During Your Actual Divorce

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Remember watching reruns of I Love Lucy when you were a child and wondering why Ricky and Lucy slept in separate beds? Weren’t they lonely?  Did Ricky snore?  Did Lucy toss and turn too much?  And it wasn’t just Ricky and Lucy Ricardo. It was the same on the other sitcoms of that time like Dick Van Dyke and Leave it to Beaver.

Well, it turns out that sleeping in different beds has made a come-back of sorts. Some happy, loving couples actually have trouble sleeping in same bed together for some of the reasons that you imagined when you were a child. The snoring spouse or the tossing and turning spouse make it difficult for the non-offending spouse to get a good night’s sleep. And of course, we all need our sleep. Sleeping in separate beds or separate rooms may be the perfect solution. As more and more couples adopted this practice, the phrase sleep divorce was coined. It is credited with saving some marriages because people who sleep well are generally happier. But let’s talk about a sleep divorce in the instance of actual divorce.

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The Role of Sleep Divorce in an Actual Divorce

When a couple decides to divorce, one of the earliest decisions that is made is who will move out of the marital residence – that is, if they can agree. Sometimes, neither spouse is willing to move out, for some legitimate reasons, as discussed below, and sleeping in the same bed can be, let’s say, impractical.  Enter the sleep divorce.  A sleep divorce is not a legal agreement. It does not require lawyers. It does allow the couple to tolerate waiting out the divorce while still under the same roof, until they work out logistics and terms. And before you start getting all judgy, here are three reasons why the sleep divorce, while going through your actual divorce, may make sense and one reason why it may not:

No 1: The children

It is very difficult for any involved parent to go from seeing their children every day, to seeing them just a couple days a week. When one parent moves out of the marital home, without the children, it may be viewed negatively in terms of which parent will ultimately have custody of the children.

If there is no agreement between the parties concerning how parenting time will be shared, both spouses may opt to stay in the house until they do reach an agreement. By staying in the house, they still get to see the children every day and sleeping in different beds and rooms gives the divorcing couple much needed space.

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Depending on the level of cooperation between the spouses, a sleep divorce may give the children continuity and normalcy while the family transitions to what will be their new, after divorce life.

The most successful divorces shield the children from the issues of their parents and sleeping arrangements are no exception. If you choose to stay in the marital home and practice sleep divorce, pick an inconspicuous location to have as your sleep area. Basements, man-caves, she sheds, dens, and offices are all strong candidates in lieu of the couch in the middle of the living room where the children may find you in the morning when getting ready for school, causing confusion and emotional upset.

No. 2: Finances

There are also financial reasons why a spouse may choose to remain in the marital residence while their divorce is pending.  If finances are tight, once one spouse moves out, the expenses are doubled.

For the spouse who will be responsible for paying child support and spousal support, they will be paying their individual expenses as well as the expenses of the children and their former spouse. Staying in the marital house for a period of time, or even until the divorce is final, allows the parties to save money.

The transition can be gradual and easier on the children who can be involved in choosing the new home where the parent who will be moving out will live.

No. 3: Sabotage

There are also times that neither spouse is willing to move out during the pendency of the divorce due to fear that one spouse will frustrate the sale of the marital residence. In other words, even if the parties have agreed to sell the house, one spouse may be concerned that the other will not permit the Realtor to show the house, or may not have the house in a clean and organized condition for viewing by potential purchasers.

There also may be fears that the marital property contained within the marital home will be destroyed or given away.  There have even been situations where one spouse vacated and the other spouse sold household furniture and other marital property on Facebook and eBay.

No. 4: Safety

Even though the sleep divorce is an option to consider for a number of reasons, including those discussed, when there are issues of abuse, your best choice may be for the spouses to live separately pending the divorce.

If you are the one leaving the house, take an inventory of all marital property that you are leaving in the house. Take photos, videotape the property and make a written list of what is there, so that you will be able to prove if anything has been sold, destroyed, or damaged in your absence.

The sleep divorce is usually a better option than trying to stay in the same room and bed while divorcing. Divorcing couples usually do not get along and things are often worse at night. Some horror stories of couples that try to stay in the same room and bed while divorcing include one spouse throwing water on the other while sleeping, removing the sheets and covers, squirting them with lotions or moisturizers while they are sleeping, opening the windows in the winter to let all the cold air in or talking and incessant name calling. This type of emotional abuse underscores why, if you choose to stay in the home while divorcing, a sleep divorce is a better option. A room with a lock on the door is preferable.

Importantly, if you are the victim of abuse, announcing to your abusive spouse that you plan to divorce can potentially be life threatening. There are varying degrees of abuse: verbal, mental, emotional, sexual, physical and threatened physical abuse. If your situation is that you or your children will be at risk of physical harm if your spouse learns that that you are planning to divorce, it is suggested that you contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1 -800-799-SAFE (7233), as well as an attorney, to help you plan.

The Takeaway

While there is talk about how sleep divorces can improve your romantic relationship, what is less often discussed is how beneficial sleep divorces can be for people in the midst of actual divorces. By sharing the same household yet sleeping in separate beds, you can help maintain a sense of normalcy for your children; keep a healthy financial budget; prevent sabotage and even protect your personal safety by steering clear of possibly problematic or abusive situations.

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