By Attorney Howard Iken: When a marriage reaches the point that the parties are contemplating a divorce, the level of conflict and animosity that is often fostered by intense emotions can make continuing to reside under the same roof extremely stressful. Nonetheless, the lingering effects of a weak economy and the loss of home equity experienced by many couples during the housing market collapse has resulted in a growing number of people electing to continue to reside together in the family home during the divorce process.
This decision can postpone confronting the challenges associated with stretching the same income to finance separate households. This issue of whether a party should move out of the family home is one of the most common questions asked by those involved in a divorce. While there is no hard and fast rule on this issue, there can be disadvantages associated with vacating the family home though it may be the most prudent course under some circumstances. In this two-part blog post, we have provided an overview of issues to consider if you are weighing whether to move out during a divorce.
Threats of Violence and/or Spousal Abuse
If the relationship between the parties to a divorce has become extremely toxic, this may necessitate moving out of the home. If you are being subjected to domestic violence or threats of physical harm that cause you to be fearful, then your safety must take priority. Similarly, if such conduct or threats are made against your children, safety issues need to trump practical concerns about divorce tactics and strategy.
However, you should seek legal advice before actually moving out if this can be done without exposing you or your children to danger from an abusive spouse because leaving with the children without seeking prompt court relief can have serious adverse legal consequences. A Florida divorce attorney may be able to seek an emergency temporary restraining order (TRO) to protect you and your children and grant you temporary exclusive use of the home pending a hearing. A Florida divorce lawyer may also seek spousal maintenance (alimony), child support and custody/visitation orders. If you must leave the home immediately for your safety, it is important not to delay in obtaining legal advice and applying for court orders.
Increased Costs Associated with Dual Residences
At the beginning stages of a divorce, the parties combined monthly income will generally remain unchanged so stretching that income to finance separate residences can be difficult. While a financially disadvantaged spouse or stay-at-home parent may eventually obtain employment or improve his/her earning capacity, this typically will not be true at the beginning of the divorce process. This means that both spouses may suffer a decline in their standard of living as soon as one spouse moves out of the family home.
Triggering Spousal Support and Child Support Obligations
If you are the primary or exclusive wage earner, the decision to move out may also trigger a request by your spouse for alimony and child support. When you live under the same roof, the presumption is that your financial support of your family’s monthly expenses makes spousal maintenance and child support unnecessary. These projected support obligation must be considered in conjunction with the expenses of moving out and paying for your separate residence. An honest budget analysis based on estimated support obligations by a divorce lawyer can help you assess the financial feasibility of vacating the family home.
It should already be apparent that moving out of the marital residence is not a decision that should be made without careful consideration. We invite you to read Part II of this blog which discusses other issues that should be part of this decision-making process.