Should I Stay, or Should I Go?
Upon separation you may feel pressured to move out or try to pressure your spouse to move out of the matrimonial home, but this is not your only option. This blog will discuss some things to consider before deciding whether to move out of the matrimonial home. Often, choosing to “voluntarily” leave the matrimonial home is not the best option because this decision may work against you as your separation proceeds. Unless you fear for your safety or the safety of your children, it is not recommended that you do so. It is important that both spouses understand their legal rights to remain in the matrimonial home and the consequences of failing to do so before physical separation occurs.
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At least one spouse usually feels obligated to move out, but voluntarily leaving the matrimonial home could have far reaching consequences, especially if you have children. One of the main reasons not to “voluntarily” leave the matrimonial home is that it could give your spouse ammunition to argue that you “abandoned the family”, which could affect your custody agreement. Even if you feel unwelcome in the home, both spouses are equally entitled to live there. And despite claims such as “the kids shouldn’t see us fighting” or promises of future parenting time, there is no way to ensure your spouse will follow through with these assurances after you have left at your own will. In the absence of safety concerns, you and your spouse should continue to reside in the matrimonial home. Living under the same roof will have no impact on your separation as long as you no longer live together as a couple (i.e. separate bedrooms, separate expenses). It is important to realize that although your spouse may try to bribe you to leave the home, there is no way to ensure they follow through with these assurances after, after they have succeeded at getting you to leave at your own will. Don't have your separation agreement created yet? Click here to create your personalized agreement:
It is actually more in your favour to leave “involuntarily”. By involuntarily, we do not mean “kicking and screaming” but having the court remove you from the home allows you to better argue that despite efforts to maintain a family routine, you were forced to move. If you leave voluntarily, even if your intentions were in the best interests of your children, it sends a contradictory message that you still wish to play an equal role in your children’s life. The best way to gain the custody agreement you want is to show you are present in your children’s lives and have positive involvement.
Moving Also Impacts Childless Couples
While moving can negatively impact couples with children, couples without children may also experience negative implications if one spouse leaves the matrimonial home. If you are the primary earner for the home and you decide to find your own place while the divorce is still pending, you could be required by the court to continue to pay for your spouse’s living expenses in addition to your new life expenses.
Additionally, when you leave on short notice, most people do not think to grab copies of all their important financial records. With it being so difficult to get back into the home after you have voluntarily left, it can be nearly impossible to retrieve those documents — and you never know what vital files may “disappear.” Even though most of these documents can be recovered through the process of discovery, it will drastically increase your legal fees if your lawyer must spend the time hunting down documents that could have been readily available.
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Your Best Option
Your best option when facing divorce, both financially and if you want the best possible custody outcome, is to stay in the marital home. While moving out may feel like the best option to keep a divorce amicable and to reduce tension, it could lead to unforeseen negative outcomes.
Figuring out a way to continue living under the same roof, hopefully at least somewhat peacefully, is your best option when contemplating divorce. Moving to a spare bedroom, avoiding any unnecessary interactions with your soon-to-be-ex spouse, and most importantly, continuing to be an active part in your children’s lives are recommended.
Just can’t make it work?
Typically, when a spouse leaves the marital home, it’s not very well-thought-out, they pack the necessities and leave. Be aware that once you leave the home, your access to it may become limited.
If you are going to move out of the matrimonial home make sure you:
Choose your new location wisely if you have children, this will make overnight visitation and school schedules easier while maintaining as much consistency in the children’s lives as possible
Photograph expensive assets and property: In some extreme cases spouses may try to hide or sell your property, a few simple pictures can help put together an inventory of property to be split, and may help you remember what you want to keep. Photographs can aid in court to show the condition, location, and value of the property.
Make copies of all important documents: Save yourself a lot of trouble by making copies of all the important documents before you move out such as tax returns, bank and credit card statements, and partnership agreements
Make sure you create a written agreement about who's moving out and simultaneously agree on major custody and financial issues to avoid any unwanted surprises
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It is always reccommenfed to consult a lawyer to better understand your rights, especially if there are any safety concerns.