What Happens if I Move Out Before the Divorce Is Finalized?

Once you and your spouse decide to get a divorce, the prospect of continuing to live under the same roof until the divorce has been finalized may seem like a stressful, potentially contentious situation. This can be particularly difficult if you have children and your spouse barely tolerates being in the same room. Couples often decide to live apart rather than continue living in a high-conflict situation. Depending on your situation, you or your spouse may consider moving out while you negotiate the terms of your divorce. However, keep in mind that there are potential legal ramifications to moving out before your divorce is finalized. It is highly recommended that you contact an experienced divorce lawyer who can recommend the best legal course of action and assist you with every step of the divorce process.

What Factors Do I Need to Consider Before Moving Out?

If you are considering moving out of the marital residence while you negotiate the terms of your divorce, including custody, spousal support, and the division of marital property, you must understand some of the possible legal consequences that this can have. The following are examples of how moving out can hurt your divorce.

Child Custody Claim

Moving out of the marital home can negatively affect your claim for child custody in several ways. For example, if you move out, you will not spend as much time with your children. In addition to the impact this can have on your relationship with your children, it could jeopardize your custody claim. While moving out may mean that your children will not have to be exposed to the stress and tension caused by your constant fighting, it could hurt your chances of getting custody in the long run.

In addition, the courts generally try to maintain a consistent schedule and living situation for the children. If you move out and spend less time with the children now, you will be less likely to be awarded more time in the final custody agreement. However, you can protect your time with your children by having a parenting plan or a custody agreement as you negotiate the other divorce terms. It will also benefit your claim if you make it a priority to continue to play an active role in their lives and make the most of the time that you do have with them. This demonstrates to the court that you are committed to your role as a parent and intend to participate in parenthood’s day-to-day activities and responsibilities.

Impact on Spousal Support

Your expenses could increase dramatically if you are the spouse who moves out and the primary breadwinner. If you are ordered to continue paying the marital bills, you will be responsible for two bills once you move into a new apartment or home. This, combined with the legal fees associated with the divorce, can be financially devastating. In certain situations, moving out can establish a positive precedent for spousal support if your ex can manage the finances. This may indicate the need for smaller alimony payments. This is a risk, however, and it is highly recommended that you discuss these issues with your divorce lawyer.

Effect on Your Finances and the Division of Property

It should come as no surprise that significant expenses are associated with setting up a new home, from rent or mortgage payments and furniture to stocking the refrigerator and pantry. In addition, the marital home is likely the most significant asset subject to the equitable property division. In New Jersey, marital property is distributed in a manner the court deems fair instead of an automatic 50/50 split. If you move out of the marital home before your divorce is final, it could affect the outcome of how the property is divided. 

Limited Access to Important Documents

If you move out of the marital home, you will have difficulty accessing important paperwork you may need when negotiating custody, alimony, and property division issues. Bank statements, credit histories, life insurance policies, loan documents, and retirement papers are just a few examples of the documents you will need. Before you move out of the home, make copies of all essential documents and keep them in a safe spot. It is common for an ex-spouse to hide or destroy items you left behind, including critical financial documents.

Is it a Good Idea to Move Out Before a Divorce is Finalized?

Every situation is unique, and your decision to remain in the marital home or move out before you have reached a final divorce agreement will depend on various factors. For example, if your relationship with your spouse has become highly contentious and you cannot set your differences aside for the sake of your children, you will need to consider whether it is in your children’s best interest if you no longer live together under the same roof. Living in a house where there is constant fighting and arguing can be extremely stressful for young children and can hurt their physical and emotional well-being.

In addition, if you or your children are the victim of domestic violence, you must get yourself and your children to safety as soon as possible. This is particularly important if your spouse tends to become violent when taking drugs or alcohol. If you leave the marital home before your divorce has been finalized, and it is due to your concerns for your safety, this will not negatively impact your right to the equitable distribution of the marital home. However, it is highly recommended that you speak with an experienced divorce lawyer who can help you take the necessary legal action to protect your legal rights, health, and safety. This may involve filing a temporary restraining order, which may require an alleged abuser to vacate the home until a final restraining order hearing is held. Even if your abusive spouse is the titled owner of the home, they may be required to leave the house until the hearing.

Our Morristown Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Help Clients Navigate Complex Divorce Issues

If you and your spouse are going through a divorce and you are considering moving out before it is finalized, it is highly recommended that you contact our Morristown divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville, Morristown, and Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, Morris Plains, and Monmouth County.