Hayden Cole and his wife, Anita, had got into a bit of a routine. They'd come home from work, sit down in the lounge, have dinner and watch a bit of television. They were both big Dr Who fans and would schedule in time to watch Criminal Minds and The Mentalist. They would have a glass of wine and chat about the day.
So far, so normal. But they were not your traditional married couple. In fact, for four months, while they amicably co-existed in their suburban North Shore, Auckland, home, Anita and Hayden had separated and were on the way to divorce.
"The main reason we kept living together was that we found we started getting on well and talking again," Cole, 44, remembers.
"It was a weight off our shoulders. We had a talk, decided it wasn't working, it was like we breathed a sigh of relief.
"We went back to being friends. It was hard to live together but not as hard as you might think. It was like flatting with someone you get on really well with."
Cole moved into the spare bedroom and dated a bit - without bringing anyone home.
When a new year ticked over and everyone who needed to be told about the split had been told he decided enough was enough and moved into his own flat.
They had been married five years and had no children.
Situations like Cole's are becoming more common.
Among the high-profile examples are Mona and Kim Dotcom. They have separated but Mona has moved into a neighbouring four-bedroom townhouse.
Kim Dotcom and Mona Dotcom. Photo / Michael Craig
The pair share custody of their children. Designers Frances Hooper and Denise L'Estrange-Corbet are estranged but still live together in their Ponsonby home.
Many other couples are "nesting", choosing to separate but leaving the children in the family home and taking turns to spend time with them there. Some even share an apartment that they take turns using on their weeks or days off from the kids.
Lawyer Selina Trigg says less traditional separation arrangements are usually driven by financial concerns, particularly in Auckland's over-heated housing market.
"A number of clients are no longer separating and leaving the family home. We're finding couples agree to separate but stay in the family home until they can work through the financial issues and sell the house and divide the proceeds. Previously that was uncommon."
But for most, it is not a long-term solution. "It's a stop gap until they can resolve in the medium or long-term what will happen with finances.
"Maybe it's to give them time to work out their budgets and find accommodation. In Auckland finding accommodation that's suitable and appropriate is an issue."
Many families now have more debt and less equity, she says, and tighter lending requirements mean more people are looking for creative solutions.
Denise L'Estrange-Corbet and Francis Hooper. Photo / Nicola Topping
"With the lending rules change, some clients have had to keep their equity in the property longer until the bank approves the mortgage to the person who wants to stay in the home."
While it might sound an idyllic solution to keep a family together, Trigg says it is often not easy in practice. Sometimes, separated couples stay under one roof for some time and it can become tense, she says. "For some, it's akin to the War of the Roses."
If the relationship is disintegrating rapidly, it can cause significant emotional fallout.
"For children, it is concerning if they have to live in that environment. It's untenable.
"But I have clients doing just that and doing so with some civility to one another."
She says it is important couples get good advice. "People just want to get divorced and move on without looking at the bigger picture.
"The number one message I try to give is more than one road leads to Rome. It's a fraught time emotionally and financially.
"The family still has to continue. You've still got to be able to sit together at your children's 21sts and weddings in the future."
Marie Redfern didn't move out of the house she shared with her first husband immediately when they divorced a decade ago. Her children were 5 and 9.
"I had to find somewhere to live. It was pretty gnarly, being in the house with my husband knowing he was with someone else. But I couldn't move until I found somewhere else."
The couple were at each other's throats constantly, she says. "We slept in the same bed and he thought he had entitlements. I told him that was not going to happen."
She hated her ex vehemently for at least a year after the divorce but as the years have gone by, she has mellowed.
"Now he comes around and we have a coffee and a chat. He's someone I've known all my life. You have to learn to get past it."
But it's not something she would do again. When she divorced a second time, she did not stick around to think about sharing the evening, let alone the house.
"Knowing I could support myself, I had no hesitation about getting out. I think a lot of women are scared to be on their own."
Now, she and her new partner live in separate houses. "I'm on my own, he lives in his home, I live in mine. We see each other every second weekend."
In Christchurch, 40-year-old Margaret, who did not want her surname used, now has her house to herself again after her partner of two years moved out last weekend.
They lived together for five months after they split because his house was rented on a fixed-term contract and he could not return there. "I thought it was the decent thing to do," she says.
At first, she wasn't sure it was going to be possible to live together while the shock of the split was so raw.
"Seeing him every day, being reminded that you've been rejected. It becomes harder when you know he's seeing someone else and there's a reminder you're not good enough."
But by the end of the five months, it had become routine.
"At the end it was easy. We were pretty good friends, just mooching around the house, not avoiding each other." Every so often, they would even take the dog for a walk together.
Now he's gone, she misses him. "It's nothing to do with love, just a person I could rely on who isn't there anymore."
Divorce rates in New Zealand are dropping - but that's probably not surprising given fewer people are tying the knot.
There were 19,237 marriages last year, down from the average 21,108 each year in the decade ending 2012.
And last year, 9729 couples divorced. The news isn't all bad, as Kiwi couples are staying married longer before divorcing. Last year, the median length of marriage before divorce was 14.2 years, compared to 13.1 in 2003.
Dr Vivienne Elizabeth, of Auckland University's sociology department, points to economic factors as a possible driver for a drop in divorces.
She says the group most likely to be able to stay together - middle-class affluent couples - is also the group most likely to marry rather than live together.
In addition, she says a lot of people "don't have enough money to run two households".
But until more is known about the seperation rates of couples choosing to live together, it is difficult to know if New Zealand is experiencing a period of more stable relationships.
"The biggest change is the rise of cohabitation," Elizabeth says.
"We don't know what's happening with those relationships. There's research to suggest they are more unstable."
She says younger, poorer couples are more likely to live together. "Being poor is stressful and stress is linked to conflict."
Claire Cartwright, a senior lecturer in psychology agrees the statistics probably do not paint a full picture.
"Divorces can be more complicated when there are children and also this is a major transition for children.
"It seems likely that one of the reasons the marriage rate is dropping is some are choosing to live in de facto relationships and have children.
"We don't know how many of these relationships break up, so these are missing statistics."
Now living in New Plymouth, Hayden Cole says he wouldn't linger if he had another relationship that ended in separation.
"I probably would get out. It's easier to cut a clean break straight away. The hardest bit was we were still telling some family and friends about the split a month or two after it happened."
He and Anita get on okay now, he says. "We don't have much to do with each other. The last time I saw her, we signed the divorce papers." They waited 2½ years to formally divorce.
"It was a new year thing. This year I thought it was time to tidy up loose ends. I rang her and said 'do you want to sign the divorce papers and get it out of the way'?"
Living together, apart
• Set guidelines for how you'll interact at home and in social situations.
• Decide what you'll tell your family and friends.
• Define responsibilities, such as housework and finances.
• If you suddenly get along a lot better, remind yourself that it may be because the pressure is off, not because the problems have gone away.
• When kids are involved - and if you're not getting along - consider dividing time with kids in a formal way. When you're not on "child duty", get out of the house.
• Be discreet about any dating you're doing.
• Keep this phase as short as possible.