Rising housing costs are not just squeezing first-time buyers and renters; they are also casting a long shadow over a seemingly unrelated realm – divorce. For divorcing couples, the financial burden of securing separate housing, particularly in highly competitive markets, is creating a new set of challenges, anxieties, and even delaying separations. Even though this new stress can vary significantly based on geographical location, income levels and the specific circumstances of each couple, those looking to separate today are facing the following issues:

Financial Gridlock: The crux of the issue lies in the soaring cost of acquiring new homes. Rising mortgage rates and inflated property prices mean the financial feasibility of splitting up is increasingly out of reach for many couples. Selling the marital home to split the proceeds often becomes untenable, particularly if it entails hefty losses or leaves both parties struggling to afford separate dwellings. Even renting two apartments can present a steep financial cliff, especially when coupled with potential child support payments.

Unbearable Immobility: This financial gridlock forces some couples into a state of “unbearable immobility,” trapped in an unhappy marriage due to the sheer practicality of housing. Sharing a space with an estranged partner adds emotional strain to an already difficult period. Pressures include the emotional turmoil of separation while navigating shared grocery lists, laundry schedules, and even assigned floors in the same house. This prolonged cohabitation can exacerbate conflicts, hinder emotional healing, and even push some couples to delay filing for divorce altogether.

Beyond the Tangible: The impact of high housing costs extends beyond the financial. The inability to secure separate housing can fuel anxieties about financial insecurity, independence, confusion and uncertainty by the children and even personal safety. For individuals experiencing domestic abuse, being trapped in a shared space can exacerbate the risks and hinder escape options. Additionally, the emotional toll of prolonged cohabitation with an estranged partner can impede the grieving process and delay personal growth after divorce.

While the housing market itself is complex and requires systemic solutions, there are potential avenues to mitigate the impact on divorcing couples. Exploring alternative housing options like co-parenting arrangements or temporary shared custody of the marital home can offer breathing room. If possible, including grandparents or other relatives for temporary housing assistance could alleviate emotional strain. And finally, working closely with legal professionals, financial advisors, and real estate agents could help develop creative solutions tailored to individual circumstances.