Homes boom means divorcees can't split

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The Independent Online

With house prices at record levels, divorced couples can no longer afford to live apart, according to a new study.

House prices rose another 2.1 per cent in July, bringing the annual increase to 20.3 per cent and the average cost of a home in the UK to a record £154,299.

A study by St Andrews University published in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies found that up to one in four couples are still living together a year after divorce or separation. "We found that in 26 per cent of cases, neither the man nor the woman moved during the separation years. The figure is similar for divorce, with 24 per cent at the same address,'' said Dr Robin Flowerdew, who led the study.

The researchers attribute the phenomenon to rising house prices and a greater demand by fathers for shared access to children. "In many cases where people do move, one parent rapidly loses touch with the child after separation," Dr Flowerdew added.

In some cases, according to the charity Relate, the marital home is divided into two, with children having bedrooms in both halves. But in one extreme case, the couple painted white lines along the middle of the hallway. "There was even a white line painted down the middle of the gardening shed so the couple did not have to share the shears and spades when they took it in turns to do the garden,'' Denise Knowles, a counsellor with Relate, said.

Ms Knowles added that this situation "is increasing and a lot of it is down to economics. If [a couple] sells the marital home, for example, there often wouldn't be sufficient equity for both of them to be able to buy again. If there is £150,000 equity in the home, and they get £70,000 each, you cannot buy anything for that."

But she warned of the pitfalls of couples living together after divorce. "There are an awful lot of boundaries that need to be sorted out. Things that are taken for granted in a relationship all have to be renegotiated. There are also the problems that can arise when one or other has a new boyfriend or girlfriend."

Sir Mick Jagger is among those who shared the same house with his ex, and Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew had a similar arrangement. The Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn and his wife, Claudia Bracchitta, were said to have decided to live in the same house after their marriage breakdown for the sake of their children.

'We shared the house for the sake of the children'

By Steve Bloomfield

When Tyne O'Connell, 43, married her second husband, Eric Hewitson, she didn't want her two sons to be distant from their father, so she asked her ex-husband to move back in.

"We were always very close," said Ms O'Connell. "My second husband was very receptive to the idea. We did it for the sake of the children."

Ms O'Connell, an author, and Simon-Peter Santospirito, who works in IT, married when they were young and divorced in 1985. She married Mr Hewitson in 1990. The three now live together in a house in Mayfair, London, with 13-year-old Cordelia, the only child of Ms O'Connell and Mr Hewitson. Although the children from the first marriage have now left home, Mr Santospirito remains.

"We are a family, even though we're not married or in a romantic relationship." The three have now lived together for nearly 14 years.

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