When your marriage is ending, it is understandable that you may not want your soon-to-be former spouse living with you for any longer than is necessary. However, many spouses do not want to leave the home, or cannot afford to get a new place to live during the divorce. If your spouse refuses to leave your home, do you have the right to force them out?

Before you call the sheriff’s office and attempt to evict your spouse, understand your options and your spouse’s rights. Don’t take any drastic measures without first speaking with an attorney because a rash decision now could harm your divorce case long term.

Seek a Temporary Order

The best way to determine which spouse should live in the marital home during the pendency of the divorce is to seek a temporary order from your family court judge. Once a divorce petition has been filed, the judge has the power to make decisions about things like which spouse should live in the home while the divorce is pending, and whether or not one spouse must give financial support to the other during the divorce case.

These temporary orders help make sure that any children involved have a consistent home life, and that the spouse who agrees to move out has the financial resources to do so. Without a temporary order, it can be difficult to force your former spouse or partner out of the home against his or her will.

Understanding Property Rights

Often, a couple will decide to title property or sign a lease using only one person’s name. This may be for a variety of reasons, like if one spouse has poor credit. When a home or apartment is in one person’s name only, does that mean that that person can force his or her spouse to move?

In general, the answer is no. Washington is a community property state, which means that any property purchased during the marriage belongs to both partners, even if only one person signed the mortgage. Until the couple is divorced, both spouses have the right to use marital funds, property, and real estate. In addition, when the community assets are split during a divorce, the partner who did not sign the paperwork will still have a right to compensation or property in exchange for his or her share of the house.

However, the way the family court divides property between spouses is different than the way that your mortgage lender or apartment complex considers ownership. Technically, if there is no temporary order in place preventing it, the person on the lease or mortgage could attempt to evict their spouse using legal means. Whether or not this is a good idea is a different story—forcing a spouse to move out against his or her own volition will reflect negatively on that person in divorce court, and may not be worth the eventual consequences.

Restraining Orders

Finally, if a person is physically violent towards his or her partner or children, the spouse can seek a restraining order which will force their partner to leave the home. Restraining orders are temporary at first, and will be subject to a judge’s review after a short period of time. If there is a valid reason to maintain the restraining order, then the judge will continue to bar that spouse from entering or residing in the marital home. If the judge finds that there is no valid reason for the restraining order, it will be lifted, and that spouse will have the right to return to the property and continue living there.

While any person who is in physical danger should immediately call the police or file a restraining order, courts are also skeptical of people who file needless restraining orders in order to force their spouse to move. Restraining orders should not be used unless a person can prove either actual violence or a substantial risk of violence.

Working With Your Former Spouse

If you are desperate to be rid of your soon-to-be ex, and cannot stomach the thought of living with that person any longer, chances are that he or she feels the same way. Rather than taking extreme measures to force your spouse out of the home, speak with an experienced family law attorney. There are legal ways to negotiate your post-breakup living arrangements which will not negatively affect you in court, and choosing to work together to find a resolution will benefit both of you in the long run.

At Pacific Northwest Family Law, our attorneys will help you and your former partner come to an amicable agreement about your divorce. We can help you decide issues like child support, property division, and child custody in a way that allows your entire family to move forward.

To learn more about your options during and after a divorce, call 360-926-9112 to schedule your appointment today.