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Things to Consider Before Moving Out

Moving out of the house? Let’s assume you are the husband, because that’s still the way it usually happens. Think first: you may never get back in. Your spouse will have a devil of a time getting an order kicking you out, even with claims of abuse, but a fairly easy time getting a stay-away order keeping you out once you go. If you walk out the door in a huff, expect the locksmith and then the sheriff in that order. If you want the impact of a stormy departure, make sure you consider the next moves in the game.

Be reasonable. Let her know you are not going to change into a fire-breathing dragon. Tell her that, for example, you’ll see there is money for the house payment. If you haven’t seen your attorney yet, simply give her the money rather than offer to pay the bills. Involve your spouse in the resolution of the immediate problem and it will pay you dividends many times over.

The "common pot" theory is typically applied when two households try to live as cheaply as one. Mediators, judges and attorneys have no alternative in tight financial situations. Add up the net income available, and then add up the bills that must be paid. Discretionary expenses do not count. After the bills that must be paid are taken care of, the money that is left will be applied to the most important needs.

Work out whatever arrangement you reach for an agreed-upon period. You have bought your peace temporarily. Remember that you are only setting up a temporary arrangement. If you start getting into discussions settling the entire case, see a lawyer right away.

My client Carl had signed a one-page agreement that his wife Diane prepared for him before he came in to see me. This simple document gave the house and all the property to Diane "in lieu of child support." There was quite a battle before the document was set aside, that is, made ineffective for any purpose. What is the simplest of the many reasons why it was invalid? Diane didn’t have the power to bargain away the children’s right to support. They could have come to court anytime if they needed (more) support from their father.

Please, don’t sell yourself short when you move out. This is so very important. Get yourself a decent place to live that has the same dignity as the home you’ve left. You are establishing a new status quo that you’ll have to live with for quite a while. If you choose to live in a dump, and the court may figure that’s all you need.

If you can’t reason with your spouse and something truly critical is at stake, then look around for alternatives and plan ahead. For example, my client Rachel wanted to return to our city and stay with her friends while she looked for a place of her own. However, it appeared the divorce had to be filed in another county where she was then living, an inconvenience. Rachel wanted to move back as soon as possible; Kurt had been to see a lawyer, and would probably file soon.

A check of the court records showed Kurt hadn’t filed. Rachel moved the children and some things into her friend’s home where they were going to stay, then came into my office to sign the papers. The papers, correctly stating where Rachel now lived, went to the court and then for personal service on Kurt.

If you’re thinking of anything like this, review it very carefully with your attorney in advance. You see, Rachel and Kurt were not strangers here. She was actually returning to the city where they had lived for most of their married life. The entire family had established ties with the community.

What if you’re the one left behind when your spouse walks out the door? Well, you have the greater burden during this transition. You’ve got to take care of business as usual, deal with your spouse’s departure and take care of yourself. If this happens abruptly, carrying on as usual may be impossible. See your counselor if you’re overwhelmed, can’t cope or are simply devastated. Then see an attorney because it can get brutal. Paul had thrown out all of my client Karen’s personal belongings, including her clothes and makeup, before he left the house. She returned home to a virtual invalidation of her existence.