When realizing you are about to go through a divorce, your mind is overwhelmed with the many decisions you now face. To make matters worse, many men find themselves being “told” to move out of the marital home. As a divorce coach and a woman, I cringe when I hear this from clients. Why? Because oftentimes, men feel powerless and vulnerable, and to minimize the conflict and possibly save the marriage, they will move out to satisfy their wives. However, this could be a mistake going forward in the divorce. I hope that men will do the research & consult with an attorney BEFORE making this decision. Gentlemen, please know that you have just as many rights to the home as your wife does!! I’m going to break down the pros & cons of whether moving out of the home is a good idea or not.
Let’s begin with why you may consider staying in the home:
- Custody issues: In many states, the parent who moves out may have their custody of the children affected. When you are living in the same home, you have daily interactions with your children. If you were to move out, you will most likely spend less time with your children. It’s imperative that you have an agreed-upon (and preferably) court-ordered parenting plan in place before moving out. If you don’t have scheduled and evenly split time with the children, this may lead to expensive payments and issues gaining equal shared custody after the divorce. Also, keep in mind, that you may find yourself stuck with the child support payments before the divorce is finalized if you have less overnight time with the kids.
- Avoid financial issues: Can you afford to keep two households afloat? If you’re the higher-earning spouse, you may find yourself in a situation where you must support two households during your divorce process. Some states may issue a “status quo order” which requires the primary earner (whoever pays most of the utilities, mortgage, and bills) to continue paying the marital bills as they did before the divorce, hence, now you may find yourself paying for two households! This can be a devastating financial blow on top of legal fees. Staying in the home may save you money while going through the process.
- Having access to personal belongings: By sticking it out in the home, you won’t lose your access to your personal belongings and important records. If you stay, you’ll be able to keep an eye on your treasured belongings and not worry about them being thrown out. Sadly, I’ve had many clients return to the family home to collect their belongings only to find they no longer have their family albums, stamp collections, bikes, etc. left.
Now, let’s look at why you may consider moving out during the divorce:
- Safety always comes first: If you are experiencing domestic violence (yes, men are victims too), leaving the home may be the safest thing to do for you and your children. If you have children, you should seek and obtain a court order for temporary custody as soon as possible to avoid accusations of kidnapping. If you’re in an abusive situation, please consult with an attorney!
- You won’t lose your property rights: In most states, the marital home is typically your most valuable asset that will be split during the property distribution process. If you feel you must leave, it should not affect your interest in the house.
- You can minimize conflict: Even in the best scenarios, emotions are running high when the decision to divorce has been made. When couples are living under the same roof and seeing each other day and night during this process, it may lead to conflict and heated arguments, and this could hinder and complicate your divorce case. I’ve seen bad situations become far worse with heated arguments and most likely your children will be exposed to this too. Moving out might be a good way to make the process easier on yourself and preserve your mental health.
- Separate and Apart laws: In some states, couples must live” separate and apart” for a period before they can file for divorce or before a judge can finalize a divorce. It may be possible to satisfy this requirement when living under the same roof, but usually, “separate and apart” means you cannot share a home.
For the couples who can communicate civilly during this time, some short-term options can ease the financial and parenting problems such as:
- “Nesting:” This is when children remain in the family home and each parent lives there for alternating periods such as a week at a time. Oftentimes, spouses stay with friends or family nearby or if the budget will allow for renting a small apartment that the spouses can share. This way the children have the stability of staying in the same home, school, and activities, as the parents rotate in and out.
- House splitting: If your home is big enough, you may be able to divide the house into separate occupancy areas. You and your spouse can then either share the common areas or plan a schedule for use of them.
Deciding whether to move out during your divorce is not an easy decision, which is why I hope you take the time necessary to make the best decision for yourself and your children.
The Divorce Coach for Men