Should You Move Out of the House Before Your Divorce Is Final?

Should You Move Out of the House Before Your Divorce Is Final?

When married couples are headed for divorce, it is natural for them to separate. This is especially so if they become estranged or hostile to one another. However, a spouse who moves out of the marital home before a divorce is finalized can endure certain negative impacts, particularly concerning child parenting and property division.

With regard to parenting issues, keep in mind that courts generally favor keeping the status quo. That means keeping to a minimum any changes in the children’s lives as a consequence of the divorce. Moving out of the family home might be seen as a disruption in continuity. Also, the parent who moves out may find it more challenging to argue for equal parenting time if they have become less actively involved in the child's daily life due to the physical separation.

On the other hand, if there are frequent arguments or incidents of combative behavior between the spouses, then one of them leaving the home could be in the children’s best interests. If domestic violence is found, the court may issue an order of protection requiring one spouse to vacate. It is better for the separation to take place without need of court intervention. Whatever the circumstances of the move, a case can be made for equal parenting time as long as the parents will be living near each other and can each provide a home environment deemed beneficial to the children.

As for property division, moving out might have a disparate impact if the court perceives that one spouse has shouldered a disproportionate burden in maintaining the marital home, or if the spouse who remains serves as the primary caregiver of the children. Arizona is a community property state, which means marital assets are generally divided equally, but it is not always feasible for the home to be sold and the proceeds to be equally divided. Very often, one spouse — usually the one staying in the home with the children — is allowed to keep it. The other is given an equivalent set-off in property. 

Personal property division can also be affected by moving out. The spouse occupying the home has physical possession of the furniture, luxury items and other personal property the vacating spouse did not take. During the divorce process, it may not be possible for the vacating spouse to return for their things, especially if the court has granted the occupant temporary exclusive use of the property. This can make it difficult to divide the assets, since they would have to be sold to achieve an equal split. 

If you are planning a divorce or the process has begun, an experienced Arizona family law attorney can help you fully understand your rights and the potential consequences of leaving the home.

At Clark & Schloss Family Law, P.C. in Scottsdale, we represent Arizonans in all aspects of divorce and related issues. Call us at 602-789-3497 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.