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.
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.
Co-parenting from two homes raises legal concerns.
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.