Pulse: Chatter: Why Breaking Up is Really Hard for Some Philadelphians to Do

A house not yet divided

Sick to death already of the Christmas season? Count your blessings. You’re better off than one of our good buddies — let’s call him “Buddy” — who spent the past two Christmases and New Years living with the ex-wife he loathed because they couldn’t sell their damned house. “It was a nightmare,” says Buddy, recounting escalating War of the Roses-style holiday hostility played out in front of their kids. “I’d decorate something, and then she’d decorate something. She’d put on B-101 Christmas music. I’d play 15th-century sackbuts.”

Klehr Harrison family-law attorney Randi Rubin says Buddy’s experience is all too common in today’s tanked economy and depressed real estate market. “People don’t have the means to live separately while they wait to sell the house, which is typically the part of the marital estate with the most value,” she explains. The situation’s compounded when a house is in foreclosure, leaving estranged couples “living together until the sheriff tells them they’re out of there,” Rubin says.

Some of Rubin’s clients move back in with their parents to get out from under the same roof, but in other cases, she advises them to stick it out: “It can affect your rights in the distribution of property if you leave and you’re not paying anything.” A single mom herself, she urges those forced into continued cohabitation to remain civil, especially when kids are involved. Buddy sucked it up: “We always went out to get a tree,” he says. “But it really was the worst Noel.”