By the time you finally arrive at the decision to divorce, most couples live apart. That’s just how it usually goes. Especially in high-conflict situations, it seems like a natural choice. After all, if all you do is bicker, this eliminates strife, stress, and frustration. Moving out probably looks like a no-brainer, right? Not so fast. There’s more to consider than you might expect.
In reality, moving out of a shared home can negatively impact your divorce in various ways. From child custody to the division of property, it’s important to know what you’re in for. You may feel like you absolutely have to get out, especially if your safety is in jeopardy, but you should still know the consequences.
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Moving Out and Child Custody
One of the most significant ways moving out can influence your divorce is when it comes to child custody. If you move out, it means you don’t spend as much time with your kids. Not only can this harm your relationship, it can also damage your custody claim.
Kids pick up on tensions at home and no children want to watch their parents fight. Maybe moving out will help alleviate this. And in the short term, that’s often the effect. But down the road, it may hurt your chances at getting custody.
For the most part, courts try not to drastically change a child’s schedule or living situation if possible. This includes radically altering parenting time. The less time you spend with them now, the less likely that is to increase after finalizing the divorce.
One option if you do move out is to have a parenting plan already established and in place. This protects your time with your children. It’s also important to make use of the opportunities you do have with them. Take advantage of the time you get. Make them the priority and maintain a major, active presence in their life. This shows the court you have an earnest interest in being a parent. The more involved you stay in regular, daily activities, the more likely that will endure following divorce.
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Moving Out and Property
Another way moving out may significantly impact your divorce is financially and with property. It’s expensive to set up a new home. You need furniture, there’s rent, and maybe you haven’t bought silverware in a while. Then there’s the fact that you often have to pay everything from a single paycheck for the first time in years. That’s not cheap.
In most cases, houses are the biggest things you buy in your lifetime. It’s likely the most valuable thing you own. Because of this, it’s also the most substantial piece on the table when it comes to the division of property. When you move out of a home with your name on the title, it may weaken your claim. Ultimate ownership is difficult to determine if there’s an argument over who the court should award it to.
People also often neglect paperwork when moving out of a shared home. Divorce requires all kinds of records: bank statements, credit histories, loan documents, and more. You may have to produce life insurance policies, retirement papers, and other financial records. It’s important you don’t move out and leave them behind, but many people do. They’re easy to overlook. And while we do so much online now, you may still receive paper statements at home. Collect what you need, change addresses and contact information when necessary, and ensure you retain access to the important papers.
Much like access to paperwork, moving out also impacts access to other possessions. It’s one thing if you pack up everything you own when you hit the road. But if you don’t, it’s often hard to get back into the house. If things are bad, it’s not unheard of for exes to damage or get rid of items left behind.
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Moving Out and Spousal Support
When you move out, the bills are still there. In some cases, you have to continue paying during the divorce. It’s common to have to cover your share month to month, even if you live elsewhere. This often sets a negative precedent when it comes to spousal support.
The court may presume that the amount you pay is financially viable and order you to continue to pay that amount, or something similar. While you crash with friends or relatives, you may inadvertently prove to the court how much your ex needs and how much you can afford, whether that’s accurate or not. A temporary situation may very well become permanent and sap your finances for years to come.
There is a flip side to this, however. On occasion, moving out can set a positive precedent for spousal support. If your ex steps up and manages the finances and home maintenance alone, it may indicate less need and lead to smaller payments. In addition, if you pay much less monthly support, it can help out in future proceedings.
None of this is to say you can’t move out during divorce. But in general, unless the court specifically orders you to, or it’s a safety issue, we don’t recommend vacating. As long as it’s safe, we strongly urge you to stay at least until you consult an attorney. Since it can have such a huge impact, it’s important to know the consequences of your actions. An experienced professional can help determine a strategy that best protects your interests.
If you have questions about divorce, contact Goldberg Jones at our Portland office.
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