When a couple is contemplating a divorce, one of the first things that usually happens is that one spouse or the other will move out and find a new place to live. Though the impulse to be away from your soon-to-be ex is understandable, leaving the marital home during the marriage could come back to haunt you in the divorce case.
No Obligation To Leave
First, if your name is on the mortgage or the lease, you are under no obligation to leave unless you have been ordered to do so by the court. It doesn’t matter if you are the spouse who wants the divorce or not—so long as you are legally entitled to live on the property, your spouse cannot force you to leave.
When determining which parent should get custody and how much parenting time each spouse should receive, the court will look at the children’s daily routine and the contact that the children have with each spouse.
Though it is often an unfair viewpoint, spouses who leave the marital residence can be seen as abandoning their families. Though the spouse may have left because there was too much conflict, it is difficult to tell a judge that you need to have custody of your children when you haven’t actually lived with them for the past year.
Maintaining the Status Quo
During a divorce, the court will attempt to keep the living situations and other arrangements as close to the status quo as possible. Without a compelling reason, a court will not order children to change schools or switch residences in order to keep their lives free from interruption.
When you move out of the marital residence, you are maintaining a new status quo. Now, you were able to support two separate households during the marriage, which should continue after the marriage. In order to maintain the best bargaining position and have some control over where you and your children live, you should avoid creating a new arrangement between your former spouse and a children until after the divorce has finalized.
When You Should Leave
Regardless of the above, if your spouse is violent or abusive you should always leave the house. If you have children, you have a responsibility to look after their wellbeing as well. If the violent spouse refuses to vacate the home, you should work to get a restraining order from the court which will force that spouse to move out and will help keep you and your children safe.
Living with your spouse during a divorce can be difficult and stressful. At Pacific Northwest Family Law, our attorneys understand that you want to resolve your divorce case as soon as possible so that you can both move on with your lives. We will work with your former spouse on your behalf, so that you can concentrate on creating a new and better future.