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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Quand la crise oblige les divorcés à vivre ensemble

by Marine Ditta

When the Crisis Forces Divorced Couples to Live Together

Translated Monday 28 May 2012, by Holden Ferry and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Today, many couples who are either separated or in the process of separating are forced to live together out of material obligation. This phenomenon is becoming more common as the housing crisis spreads and it can cause psychological suffering.

“We were scared about the future, about losing our standard of living and maybe even becoming poor.” This account, obtained by Claude Martin, CNRS research director, as part of a study on couples who are “together but separated”, clearly illustrates the little-known problems that can arise from the breaking-up of some families.

While the divorce rate in France has been continually on the rise over the past 50 years (46.2% in 2010), more and more couples continue to live together after their separation, sometimes just temporarily, sometimes over a period of several years. These situations, which are both paradoxical and hard to quantify, are mainly due to financial and material constraints.

It is difficult to quickly find a new place to live in a slow housing market, or continue to cover the rent alone within the context of crisis and insecurity for much of the population. “The high housing prices are causing one of the members of the couple to delay their departure, sometimes indefinitely. It’s the main reason” why “separations today are more difficult than they were twenty years ago,” says sociologist Sylvie Candolle.

A Temporary Situation That Drags On

Sandrine, 36 years old, mother of two young children and forced to live with her ex-husband since their separation in November, talks about the difficulties that she encountered in selling the family’s apartment: “Beginning of winter, economic crisis…That’s why we haven’t found a buyer yet. But we’re still hopeful. We have had a few visits with the arrival of spring…”

A survey carried out by Mediapart at City Hall in Paris in 2008 reveals that more than a quarter of all requests made during office hours come from people wanting a divorce. But the waiting lists are long, forcing couples to come up with temporary solutions, which is all the more difficult for parents with young children. “We each take turns taking the kids for a weekend, and every other week I go home alone to my father’s place,” explains Sandrine. “Despite our arrangement, the situation is still difficult. You’re still living with a man, but he’s a stranger.”

“I had a similar experience one year,” writes a female internet user on Parent-solo.fr. “We set new rules for ourselves: scheduling bathroom usage, mealtimes…The goal was to cross paths as few times as possible in order to avoid any sort of friction. I was only able to stand it thanks to medication. It was no fun, especially for the kids.”

Rent: CNL Wants a Decree

The Confédération nationale du logement (National Confederation of Housing, CNL) asked for an audience with the newly elected president yesterday. “Promises were made, […] however, we must remain vigilant,” states a communiqué from the association, calling for an immediate rent freeze “by decree”, housing allowance increases, and a stop to repossessions, evictions, and electricity and water cuts. These are indispensable measures, just like “the repealing of the loi Boutin” and the “implementation of a national and decentralized public housing service.”

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