Apr 8, 2020
What are the legal consequences of living in the same house while we get divorced?
Clients frequently ask me whether living together in the same residence will affect the outcome of their divorce. Many couples have already physically separated when they decide to divorce, but for others, it’s a very important question.
No-fault divorce vs ‘fault grounds’
Before 1980, the only legal basis in Pennsylvania to obtain a divorce were “fault grounds.” Although fault grounds are still a part of the divorce code, revisions to the PA Divorce Code in 1980 created the no-fault divorce. No-fault means we don’t have a villain and victim; neither party has to accuse the other of any misconduct. But the idea of “fault grounds” is still a part of our culture and is very slow to disappear. One of the primary fault grounds is “willfully deserted the marriage for a period greater than one year.” During our mediation meetings, my clients frequently ask me if they leave the marital residence for any reason, “am I losing my rights?” The answer is a resounding NO.
Practical Considerations Make Sense Unless…
Who lives where while getting a divorce is no longer a legal question, but a lifestyle question. In mediation, many of our clients choose to live together quite successfully. Maybe it is not their first choice, but if it can ultimately benefit both parties and their children, it is perfectly OK to do so.
Staying in the same home often means that the finances are not consumed by maintaining separate households until the divorce agreement is final – this saves money for both people. Also, if children are involved, they see that their parents are willing to work together as a family, giving them a better ides of what the future will be like.
On the other the hand, if life is intolerable to be in one residence, they should live separately, they can plan to do so, knowing there will be no negative consequences of any kind. The spouse relocating will not lose any rights, nor will the other spouse gain any advantage because the their spouse leaves the house.
During our Alpha Center’s mediation meetings, we have the opportunity to plan the relocation of one or both spouses. We can minimize the impact to their future finances and prepare the children in the healthiest manner possible. Our goal is always to make sure that once clients have completed Alpha’s mediation program, they can focus on the next step in their lives with as much financial and emotional stability as possible.
Debbie Schneider, Esq, is an attorney-mediator for the Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation. Click here for more information about Debbie and why she chooses to focus on divorce mediation.