If you are on the verge of a divorce, it is imperative that you do not leave the home. While it is tempting to jump ship and stay at a friend’s place or with a sibling or parent, doing so can have negative legal ramifications, even during a separation. Remaining in your current home with your spouse might feel like an exercise in self-masochism but it is in your self-interest from a legal, financial and child custody standpoint.
Exhibit Grace Under Fire
Too many married men have come home from a long day at work only to be ambushed by a spouse who declares that she desires a divorce. All too often, the husband abides by his wife’s request, leaves the home right away and finds a new place to stay. While this might seem like rational behavior, it is actually a tragic mistake. Leaving the home upon the announcement of a desire for divorce, before any legal paperwork has been filed, only serves to paint you into a corner. This is especially true for those who have children.
Those hit with the bombshell of a divorce should remain in the home. If you leave after your wife declares her desire for a divorce, her attorney can use your exit as ammunition to attack your character and your legitimacy as a caring parent. Opposing counsel will argue that you are unfit to be a parent and that you abandoned your family as soon as the waters became rocky. Although your spouse might bully you in an attempt to leave the home, you should not move out. Just because your spouse announces her desire for a divorce does not give her the legal grounds to occupy the home that both of you own and have resided in during your time together. As long as your name is on the mortgage or lease, you have every right to remain in the home until the division of property is determined at a future date.
Property Ownership Standards and Child Custody
If the home is not in your name and you do not have children, your spouse has the legal right to demand that you leave. If you have children and you are the parent who spends the most time with them, or provides their primary care, property ownership standards state that you can remain in the marital home. These standards were designed with the well-being of the children in mind. Yet if there are no children involved and both of you have your names on the home’s mortgage or lease, neither of you has the legal right to force the other move out. While your spouse can ask you to leave the home, she does not have the legal right to have you removed from the premises. Do not give in to this request as doing so will help your spouse’s counsel frame you as a cold-hearted parent who abandons his family when times are tough. Remain in the home and wait for the divorce proceedings to transpire.
How to Respond to Divorce Drama
If you do the right thing and remain in the home, your spouse might not respond in a civil manner. She might change the locks or put up barriers that prevent you from entering your own home. If this occurs, do not become violent with your spouse or make threats. You have every right to call the police. When they arrive on the scene, they will force your spouse to let you into the home. As long as your name is on the mortgage or lease, your spouse cannot kick you out unless she can prove that you have harmed her. This is precisely why you should never become agitated by your spouse’s shenanigans. Remain civil at all times. Do not lose sight of the fact that your words and actions during this contentious time can be used against you during divorce proceedings. You have every right to remain in the home unless a judge grants a restraining order against you.
While it might be tempting to claim that your spouse has committed an act of domestic violence, it is not worth the risk. This type of tactic usually backfires. Instead of framing your spouse as an abuser, false allegations of abuse typically prompt a judge to force the accuser to leave the home. Aside from having to exit your home, you will have to trudge forward through your divorce proceedings with a judge who holds a strong bias against you. This does not bode well for your fate in terms of negotiating for ownership of assets and child custody. However, if you believe that you are a legitimate victim of domestic violence, you should write down exactly what happened and contact your attorney. Do not hesitate to reach out to a domestic violence hot line as well.
Consider how a Judge Will View Your Decision to Stay or Leave
While it is tempting to leave the home in order to obtain peace and quiet, you must understand that the decision to leave impacts people besides yourself. Exiting the home upon the announcement of a divorce might significantly decrease your chances of obtaining custody of your children. So, think twice before heading out to a hotel or a friend’s place. This action might severe the bonds that you have developed with your children. If your children remain in the home throughout the divorce process, the parent who stays there to take care of them has a strong argument that altering the current living arrangement will have a negative impact on the children. Her attorney will argue that you abandoned your family and bringing you back into the picture will only serve as a disruption.
Judges view children as uber-sensitive parties that do not handle conflict well. Do not create the impression that you exited the home in a self-serving manner. You might be penalized for failing to take your children’s interests into consideration. It is possible to avoid this conflict by crafting a written parenting agreement before either you or your spouse exits the property. This document should establish the following:
- A highly detailed parenting schedule.
- A determination of who is permitted to remain in the home.
- It must also state that the parent who exits the home does not relinquish his custodial or property rights.
Unfortunately, emotions run high after a divorce is announced and many couples can’t reach this type of a parenting agreement. If either of you is adamant that the other should exit the home, the exiting party must request that the court determine a shared parenting schedule. Do not delay this request as doing so provides your spouse with the opportunity to portray you as an uncaring parent who pursued his self-interest by moving out before a parenting schedule could be established. Request the parenting schedule right away so that you know exactly where you stand and have a legal document to support your right to remain in the home or move out and visit your children at specific times.
Develop a Plan of Action with Utah Divorce Attorney David Pedrazas
Divorce is a very complicated matter. The decisions that you make after your spouse’s announcement of a desire for a divorce can shape your future in terms of finances as well as child custody. Do not hesitate to speak with David Pedrazas, our experienced matrimonial attorney before taking any action. David has over 25 years’ worth of experience representing men and women in divorce. Lean on our legal expertise to ensure that you take the course of action that serves your self-interest as well as the interests of your children.