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Sharing a building with your ex-, for the kids

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Divorce usually means no more sharing a roof with your ex-. Yet when kids are involved, some NYC parents settle down in the same building—especially while the kids are little and getting used to the split.

"It's common only among those who try to keep the family bond strongly intact and have an amiable relationship and the financial feasibility," says Julie Friedman, a senior associate broker at Bellmarc Realty.

Ideally, she says, the apartments should be separated by at least two floors to prevent sound transmission and be accessible through separate elevator banks to minimize unplanned encounters.

"Be sure the building staff and especially the doormen maintain confidentiality about who had visitors and overnight guests," says Friedman.

Last June, Danielle Hughes, a 37-year-old freelance copywriter, amicably separated from her husband of seven years. The couple sold their Forest Hills, Queens, co-op and rented a pair of two-bedroom apartments in a nearby highrise.  Their 4-year-old son, Owen, divides his time between the two dwellings.

“The key is to be enough floors apart to have enough of a distance,” says Hughes. “He’s on the 3rd floor and I’m 22nd floor, and we’re in opposite elevator banks as well.”

The arrangement has greatly simplified the back-and-forth shuffle of co-parenting, she says.

“The nanny has keys to both places and sometimes does the drop offs, and we don’t have to get him into a car –we just throw on slippers and go into the elevators,” says Hughes.  “Owen loves it.”

She says she and her ex- have also been able to carve out a substantial zone of privacy, which is often the trickiest thing about living next to an ex-, especially when one or both resume dating.

“In seven months, we have only run into each once and it was outside,” she says.  “I do think the separate elevator helps.  Also, whichever one of us has our son usually stays at home.”

Once, she says, her boyfriend ducked into a stairwell when he heard her ex- approaching down the hallway, as Hughes’ former husband had expressed a desire not to meet the new man in her life.

Though Hughes is an advocate of the two-halves-under-one-roof arrangement, she views it as a transitional step that will probably last a year or two, until Owen is more adjusted to their split-parenting routine.

Here are some other pros and cons to consider before trying this at home:

Pros:

1.  The kids love it, and it greatly eases the logistics of dual-household living (eg forgotten homework, stuffed animals etc)

2.  Particularly amicable parents can set a schedule whereby one parent visits Monday-Wednesday-Friday to read a bedtime story or help with homework. Note: Experts insist that this be a scheduled routine, not spontaneous drop-in time, to avoid blurring boundaries.

Cons:

1. Having to hide your dates from your kids (at least during the early stages of a split) and possibly your ex.

2.  Your kids may come to prefer one home over the next and/or pay unscheduled visits. (See complications arising from #1 above.)

3.  Overly friendly spouses might go overboard and try to act like one big happy family, confusing the hell out of the kids.

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