Two exes, one house: How they still live side-by-side
Published Monday, June 17, 2013 2:27PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 17, 2013 2:57PM EDT
Any divorced parent who shares custody with their ex knows how hard it can be to uproot the children and shuffle them back and forth from one parent’s house to another.
For Monica McGrath and Kent Kirkland, the stress of post-divorce life became too much. So the Edmonton exes came up with a solution that some might find a little strange.
They decided to live together in the same house, in completely separate spaces.
The former couple built a house that has separate entrances to two spaces. The only part of the house that’s shared is a single, small hallway on the second floor that leads to both children’s bedrooms.
The hallway – which they’ve dubbed “the transporter” -- has doors on each end; one leads to McGrath’s side and the other to Kirkland’s. If it’s McGrath’s week with the kids, Kirkland locks his hall door while McGrath opens her’s. They then switch the next week
McGrath and Kirkland split up four years ago and say they first tried to live the conventional way divorced parents often do: with one parent taking the children one week and the other the next.
But they said they were always disorganized and missing important dates. Their kids, now 10 years old and eight years old, weren’t very happy either, says McGrath, because they felt like they didn’t have anywhere to call home.
“It’s difficult seeing your kids in that situation. They’re upset and being passed back and forth is upsetting to them. So that was the instigator for the idea,” McGrath told CTV’s Canada AM Monday
The idea that McGrath proposed to her ex-husband was for shared, but separate residences within a single duplex.
“She had made a rough sketch,” Kirkland remembers.
“My first thought was I didn’t know if it would be possible with city building codes.”
But once Kirkland checked with the city and found out it would be possible, he got to work with a designer. The two sides of the house are similar in layout though Monica’s side is a little larger at 1,800 square feet, while Kirkland’s has 1,700.
Since everyone moved in last fall, McGrath says it’s all been working out. She’s also found there are financial advantages to the arrangement, since the costs of living in one house are lower than having two separate homes across town. And it’s easier to maintain a single house since everyone shares maintenance duties.
As for their inter-personal interactions, McGrath says she and her ex actually see very little of each other, despite living in the same building.
“I think a lot of people would be surprised that there are weeks when we would not see each other for five days. We can easily go five days without seeing each other,” McGrath says.
She says she and her ex do most of their communicating via text messages, or with the occasional phone call.
“Rarely is it that we knock on each other’s door to say what we would need to say,” she says.
McGrath and Kirkland say they are actually happier than they expected in their new living arrangement, but they say the real reason they did it was for the kids.
McGrath says it’s clear to her that the kids are more content now, which was exactly what they hoped for.
“The kids are very happy. They’re young people so they don’t do a lot of dialogue, but they’ll say, ‘Mum we like living in one spot. We like having our things in one place. We like the house’,” she says.
“So yeah, they’re happy.”