Will Moving Out of My Home during a Divorce
Damage My Child Custody Rights?
Apart from child custody issues, determining who gets the family home and who has to move out is one of the biggest, and most emotionally charged decisions you will make in a divorce. Since a primary reason for getting a divorce is the fact that you can no longer live with your spouse, it makes sense that there will be a lot of tension as long as the two of you are living under the same roof. Moving out can take many guises: you may decide to move out on your own; your spouse may tell you to leave; your spouse may leave and take the children; or a variety of other scenarios.
No matter the circumstances, whether or not to leave your home is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in your divorce. In this article, experienced Oakland County divorce and child custody attorney Starla Zehr discusses how moving out during a divorce can affect your child custody arrangements.
Deciding to Leave the House in a Divorce
While leaving the home may seem the like obvious (and for that matter, only) option, that decision can change the course of your divorce proceedings. Moving away from your child or children can create problems for you and for them. That being said, remaining in the home and subjecting the children to fights and tensions between you and your spouse also has its negative consequences as well. It may be helpful to strike a balance by staying away for a week or so to find a balance, and then begin to work out a more permanent solution with your spouse in more neutral territory.
Deciding to move out for good can cause damage that is hard to repair later and is not something you should do without carefully considering the effects of your decision – and discussing it with your attorney. If you live somewhere else, you obviously will not see the child as much, at a time when they may need your presence and support. This can be perceived by a child as abandonment and may affect your relationship with the child. And, there is a consequence that many parents fail to recognize: moving out can actually damage your claim to child custody in the future.
Accidental Establishment of a New “Normal”
The more you are away from your children, the easier it is for your ex to make an argument that he or she should keep primary custody because that’s the way it already is. And moving out of the home, away from the children, gives you less time with them, despite your good intentions. This gives your former spouse a perceived advantage in court, as many judges or mediators are hesitant to rock the boat for children if a “pattern” has already been established and the children have already partially adjusted to it.
Remember: absent a court order, you have no legal obligation to move out of your home. And in fact, the court could interpret this as an indication that being present with your children is not your top priority, and it can weigh in your spouse’s favor when custody arrangements are being determined.
Other Negative Consequences of Moving Out
Even if you don’t have children, moving out may help your ex establish a “status quo” wherein it makes more sense for him or her to maintain the residency. For instance, if you are the primary breadwinner and you move out prior to the divorce, but continue to pay the mortgage even while living elsewhere, the court may require you to provide the same degree of support during the pendency of the divorce, and even after it is finalized.
Don’t Leave Important Documents Behind if You Move Out
The decision to leave your home is a very emotional one, and in the moment, you may not think clearly about what you should take with you. You may take clothes, toiletries and important possessions, but not think about important papers and documents. Moving out can mean that you lose access to bills, tax returns, mortgage statements, and even credit card records – all of which are essential for fairly and equitably negotiating a divorce settlement in your favor.
While your spouse can eventually be required to provide you with these documents by the court, not having them immediately on hand could prolong your divorce and put you on uneven footing until you have the financial proof you need to obtain a fair settlement.
When you first begin to seriously contemplate a divorce, you should begin to make copies of all relevant documents so that you have them when you need them.
Not Moving Out May Speed Up the Divorce Process
In some situations, remaining in the home has the unexpected advantage of pushing the divorce process along more quickly, because likely both of you will be more anxious to end what is likely a very uncomfortable living arrangement. Arriving at a compromise and reaching a settlement may happen faster with the extra motivation of wanting to get away from one another.
Oakland County Child Custody Attorney
In sum, essentially, when one parent moves out it impacts the household with minor children and changes the “established custodial environment”. This is really the primary concern here – rather than the commonly expressed fear of “abandonment”.
It is important to understand that the parent’s move-out will not automatically result in forfeiture of that parent’s claims to the home equity or property. But moving out could negatively impact custody and overnight parenting time, if it results in the other parent staying in the home with minor children.
Before you pack your things and leave, take the time to consult with experienced Oakland County child custody lawyer Starla Zehr. She has more than 30 years of experience advocating for the rights of parents in divorce. Through Starla Zehr’s practice, many of her clients have been able to maintain custody, or to establish liberal and healthy visitation with their children after divorce. Call our office today, and we would love to see if we can assist you to make the wisest decisions that will benefit you and your children throughout the divorce process and into the future.