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Jun 17, 2020

Divorcing? When Should I Leave the House?

Future Post-Divorce

Divorcing couples are often concerned about the timing of when one spouse should leave the marital home. From an economic perspective, it is more efficient for both parties to remain in one residence as long as possible. The financial strain may be even more pronounced during the current economic challenges. COVID-19 quarantine necessitates couples to continue to live in the same home as they go through a divorce. But from an emotional perspective, however, divorcing spouses often desire to live separately as soon as possible. The same issues that led to the decision to divorce can be exacerbated by continuing to live under the same roof. Parties often do not wish to wait to live apart. So, when should a party leave the marital residence?

Get advice before you make a decision to move

First, it is almost always best not to make any major decisions or changes before seeking legal counsel. In the case of those who agree to handle their divorce through mediation in order to save money, time, and emotional turmoil, an attorney-mediator can help with this question of when to leave the house. If both parties still live together, we often recommend that neither party leave the house until the couple has gone through their initial mediation sessions. It’s important to reach agreements on key factors involving child custody and distribution of marital assets and debts. During these negotiations, it is often advantageous for both spouses to stay under same roof for a period of time. During mediation sessions, we discuss various options. One party may keep the home and remove the other party’s name from mortgage, note, and deed. The detailed steps and timing can be agreed upon in advance through mediation. Or, the couple may decide to sell the marital home and agree on when one party will move out, who will pay the household expenses while the sale is pending, and on how to divide the proceeds of the sale.

Evaluate the current emotional situation with your spouse

Second, if the situation between spouses is overly hostile, to the degree that it is not healthy to remain in close proximity to each other, then it may be necessary for one party to leave the marital residence even before agreements are reached in mediation. In cases of domestic violence or abuse, for example, it makes no sense for the parties to stay under one roof. If the parties cannot maintain a civil living atmosphere, there may be little choice other than one spouse leaving the home before final agreements are reached. Consider the children’s interests first

Third, if there are minor children involved, consideration should be given to what is in the best interest of the children. For couples who go through mediation, a mediator can help the spouses reach an informed agreement as to what custody arrangement is in the children’s best interest. In a mediation scenario, one party leaving the house will not change the ultimate outcome of the custody agreement. Even if the spouses end up litigating their divorce with separate attorneys, child custody issues will be ultimately determined by what is in the best interest of the children.

While there is no one-size-fits-all answer as to when one spouse should leave the marital home when divorcing, an attorney-mediator can help a couple reach an agreement that best protects both parties’ interests as part of a comprehensive marital settlement agreement.