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Why You Shouldn’t Leave The Marital Home During Divorce (Until You Have To)

We’re finished. My marriage is done, and we’re getting a divorce. They’re the words you’ve heard friends and family say before, the words you never imagined yourself saying. Yet, here you are, speaking them. Now that you’ve made a decision, you want to get the divorce process started. You know the sooner you do that, […]

We’re finished. My marriage is done, and we’re getting a divorce.

They’re the words you’ve heard friends and family say before, the words you never imagined yourself saying. Yet, here you are, speaking them.

Now that you’ve made a decision, you want to get the divorce process started. You know the sooner you do that, the quicker you can begin your new life, away from the heartache you feel and the person causing it. It’s why you’ve decided to move out of the house.

Great idea for expediting your dissolution, right? Well, maybe not. Before moving out of your house, now the clinically defined “ marital home,” you might want to take a deep breath to consider your options first. Then prepare, based on the one you choose. As you will see, moving out is not always the best choice, so don’t leave until you must. 

Let me explain, starting from the beginning. 

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You Can’t Be Forced to Leave Your Home

While a spouse can attempt to force another out of a marital home through violence or other means, the law has safeguards against forceful removal from marital property.

Whether it is Alabama or any other state in the US, a spouse can’t force another to move out of a family home or marital home without court orders.

You need an occupation order to remove a spouse from a marital house. The orders are common in cases of domestic violence. What’s more, an order can be secured even if a spouse isn’t violent. For instance, threatening violence is adequate grounds for pursuing an occupation order. The same applies to psychological or sexual abuse.

An occupation order dictates who will live in a marital home. In the absence of that order, a spouse shouldn’t be forced to leave. Spouses who are served occupation orders must obey them or risk committing an offense – contempt of court. If such a spouse is brought before an Alabama judge, they can be fined or imprisoned.

What’s more, occupation orders can be challenged. Contact a lawyer if you want to challenge occupation orders, and don’t leave your home until a final judgment is issued. It’s worth noting that it is unlawful for spouses to use other underhand tactics to lock one another out of the marital home without an occupation order. For instance, locks shouldn’t be changed without notifying the other spouse and getting their consent. An excluded spouse has the right to change locks and regain entry.

You Stand To Lose Some “Bargaining Chips”

Spouses who move out voluntarily or until they have to also give up critical “bargaining chips”. While leaving marital property shouldn’t affect a spouse’s rights, it does affect negotiations.

For instance, in many cases, negotiation tends to proceed faster and better for spouses who are still in their marital house. When both spouses don’t want to share a roof, there is an urgency to reach an agreement to live apart.

What’s more, those who leave their marital home until the last minute may find it impossible to go back. A comeback can bring more emotional destruction and confusion, especially when children are involved.

Also, a spouse who moves before some critical milestones (i.e., before a valuation is done) may allow for property devaluation unknowingly. You also risk reducing your financial support claim if you already have a place to live. Courts normally want spouses who leave to enjoy the same standard of living. If you move out and settle in a place offering a lower living standard, you may miss out.

Lastly, moving will be disadvantageous since you still need to contribute to home payments and utility payments whether you are living in the house or not. This usually applies to mortgage properties where both spouses are contributing to home repayments and utilities.

What If I Must Move Out of the Marital Home?

If you are forced to move out i.e., due to unbearable circumstances like repeated domestic violence or sexual abuse, what should be the next cause of action? Well, Talk to a lawyer immediately!

If you move without a plan, you can find temporary refuge with family members, friends, or well-wishers. It is also possible to get shelter via your local council. Priority needs individuals such as victims of domestic abuse can get both short-term and long-term housing. Once you have

somewhere to live, you can proceed with your case.

You shouldn’t leave local council housing until you are sure you have somewhere else to live. Individuals who make themselves intentionally homeless won’t get local council housing again. However, there may be an exception.

The implications of leaving your marital home are dire. This explains why the decision must be well thought off. Talk to a divorce lawyer to understand your options and implication in depth. In many cases, a spouse can wrongfully secure an occupation in order to force you out. You need legal help to fight such an order and protect your rights to marital property.

Divorce lawyers understand home rights applicable to your state. They can also help you get custody and whatever else is rightfully yours.

Leaving The Marital Home Is A Traumatic Experience

Getting a divorce is an upheaval, not only for the couple who is parting ways but for the entire family, especially the children. Heck, I’ve had clients tell me their dog or cat suddenly appeared more sallow, probably because they were depressed. 

Moving out of the house exacerbates everyone’s stress, bringing a change off in the distance into reality. Except in situations where domestic violence is a factor, couples should, therefore, carefully consider whether it’s worth it to bring tensions to a head now or to wait. 

As you will soon discover, divorce puts entire families under incredible financial, legal, and emotional stress because of the changes you must make. Though change can be positive in your life, the best way to limit the stress that flows from it is by organizing your affairs first.

Moving Out Affects Your Finances

You, me, and baby make three, four, and beyond. Family life has its benefits, especially from a financial standpoint. Together you all live under one roof, sharing the same food, utilities, and simple luxuries like Netflix and cable TV.

Upset that careful financial balance by moving out, you will soon discover how supporting two homes with identical accouterments comes with a price tag — a big one.  

Factor in that your income will remain the same, which means you’ll be lucky if you can maintain your current living standard. The reality is, after divorce, most people can’t. Ask yourself: Are you ready for that?

If the answer is no, perhaps you should consider taking the time to assess your needs and revisit your priorities so you can enjoy the life you want once you and your spouse part ways. 

By moving out, am I giving up any legal rights?

The answer is: perhaps. Depending on the state where you live, a court might consider leaving the marital home abandonment. If that happens, it could negatively impact the amount of spousal support ( alimony depending on the jurisdiction) you pay or receive.   

Even in no-fault divorce states, where neither party receives the blame for the divorce, courts may still consider abandonment a factor when determining alimony and child custody. No-fault states include Wisconsin, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Nebraska, Montana, Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan, Kentucky, Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, Hawaii, Florida, Colorado, and California.

Speaking of child custody, prematurely moving out brings child custody issues to the forefront when parents may not feel equipped to resolve these issues yet. That can cause severe problems because the first custody plan becomes the status quo and has a bearing on what will eventually become the permanent custody arrangement. 

The date a spouse moves out is also usually considered the “date of separation” for divorcing parties. It may not appear to mean much on its face but, rest assured, this is a legal phrase laden with meaning. The date a divorcing couple separates can significantly affect the valuation of marital assets and debts during the property division phase.

By staying in the house until you iron out all property, financial, and custody issues, you can prevent more elaborate legal disputes from occurring later. 

Separate Addresses Don’t Usually Improve The Situation

Let’s get down to the real nitty-gritty of it: living with someone you are divorcing isn’t fun and can be downright miserable. As much care as you take to avoid your soon-to-be-ex by day and sleeping in a different bedroom by night, you’re going to cross paths eventually. Even receiving a passing glance in the hallway or kitchen can be a moment riddled with contempt for both of you. It’s the reason why you want to get away so fast — you think living in a different home will make all this go away. 

After years of experience, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t. The strain you’ll feel as a consequence of your divorce will be there no matter what, maybe more so if you moved out of the marital home too soon and gave away some of the advantages you would’ve had if you still lived there. Because issues like parenting, money, and property become hot topics sooner than later and sometimes all at once, moving out may cause more stress than if you had just stayed put. 

So before packing your bags, consider the weight of the baggage you’re taking with you. And see if you can empty some of it first.

It’s not an easy process, but with the right family law attorney, you can leverage the way your divorce is treated and come through the experience more financially prepared.

Talk to a professional from Charlotte Christian Law by calling us at (256) 859-7277 or contacting us through our contact form.

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