Divorce is never easy. It’s a process filled with emotional turmoil and financial difficulties that can make anyone feel overwhelmed. One of the most important decisions you’ll need to make during this time is whether or not to leave your home.
It’s understandable to want to distance yourself from a situation that’s causing you pain, but moving out of your family home could be a mistake that could impact the outcome of your divorce in ways you might not expect.
You may think that leaving will provide relief from tension between you and your partner, but doing so could actually put you at a disadvantage when it comes to legal proceedings. Depending on where you live, leaving your home during a divorce could hurt your chances for getting custody of your children, as well as limit your rights to property and assets later on.
“Your marital home may hold hidden risks that you aren’t aware of yet.”
If you’re still wondering why moving out is the biggest mistake in a divorce, keep reading to discover the potential consequences and risks associated with leaving your family home.
It Can Affect Your Custody Battle
The decision to move out of the marital home during a divorce may seem like the best thing to do for your mental and emotional well-being. However, it can have long-lasting implications on your custody battle, especially if you have children.
Living Situation Is a Factor
When determining child custody arrangements, courts consider various factors that are in the child’s best interest. One of these factors is the living situation of each parent. Moving out of the family home can be viewed as an indicator that you relinquished primary care of your children, which could work against you in the proceedings.
According to Sarah Feuerstein, a matrimonial attorney in New York, “If one spouse moves out of the house during the pendency of a divorce action, temporarily or not, the court will still look at this loss of access to the marital residence as detrimental to their claims for parenting time and/ or residency.”
Child’s Best Interest Is Key
The ultimate goal in any custody decision is to determine what is in the best interest of the child involved. When deciding how much parenting time and responsibility a parent should receive, judges take into account several elements such as stability, continuity, and consistency. With young children, the lack of familiarity with new surroundings can affect them negatively, so their best interests dictate staying in the comfort of their shared home.
If there is no immediate danger present within the home, it may be advisable for a parent going through a divorce to stay put until a custody agreement has been reached. In the words of Marcia Mavrides, a Massachusetts lawyer specializing in family law, “the person who stays in the home might get the benefit of retaining possession providing he/she ends up with some form of joint/shared legal or physical custody of the kids.”
Parental Stability Is Important
An important factor in child custody cases is each parent’s stability. This refers not only to financial and emotional stability but also includes their living situation. Moving out of a shared home can be considered as instability that may affect your claim for custody.
Lisa Zeiderman, chair of Matrimonial and Family Law practice at Miller Law Group, notes that “one issue that arises quite frequently when one spouse moves out of the marital home during divorce proceedings is deeming this person less stable than the non-moving spouse.”
The odds are high that you will be questioned about why you moved out during the divorce proceedings, and judges often scrutinize individuals who abandon their marriages without facts supporting the reason behind it. They may perceive such an individual as unreliable or lacking in commitment, which could significantly impact your chances of receiving favorable outcomes concerning custody matters.
Impact on Co-Parenting Relationship
Moving out while separating from a partner can create tension and conflict with co-parenting relationships. Lack of interaction between separated partners makes for difficult communication and cooperation due to positioning by lawyers. “It usually polarizes the parties,” says Feuerstein, adding that, “the children end up being caught in the crossfire,” when attorneys start playing tug-of-war over parenting time and other issues regarding the well-being of the kid/s.
With parents leaving one another suddenly or moving into alternative accommodations right off the bat, interim problems might arise, thus making co-parenting more troublesome than if they remained present in the family residence, where both have access to the routines faced by their offspring.
Moving out of the marital property during a divorce should get careful consideration before taking action. In opting for a new dwelling place, parents may incur in many repercussions they have not anticipated. It can affect many aspects of the court’s decision-making process on parental rights and responsibilities’ allocation that could significantly impact their family life going forward.
“The truth is unless you are going through one yourself; it’s very tough to understand what divorce entails emotional level and how all-encompassing it really can be.” -Zoe McLellan
You Could Lose Your Equity
When couples go through a divorce, there is often a lot of uncertainty around what will happen to their shared assets. For many, the biggest and most valuable asset is the family home. Unfortunately, deciding who will keep the house can be one of the most contentious issues in a divorce. While it may seem like a good idea to simply sell the property and move on, moving out could actually cost you more than you realize.
Market Fluctuations Can Hurt
The real estate market can be unpredictable, and even small fluctuations can have a big impact on your equity. Timing is everything when it comes to selling a home, and if the local housing market takes a downturn after you move out, you could end up losing money. Experts recommend waiting at least five years before selling a home to ensure that you can recoup your investment and avoid losing money on the sale.
Foreclosure Is a Possibility
If neither spouse can afford to take over the mortgage payments on the home, foreclosure could become a reality. Foreclosed homes often sell for much less than their fair market value, leaving both spouses with a financial loss. Additionally, having a foreclosure on your record can make it difficult to secure loans or credit in the future.
Refinancing Can Be Difficult
In some cases, couples opt to refinance the home into one person’s name following a divorce. This process can be complicated, however, as one spouse typically needs to buy out the other’s share of the equity. Refinancing also requires the applicant to meet strict income and credit requirements. If one spouse cannot qualify for refinancing on their own, both parties could remain financially tied to the property for an extended period of time.
Selling May Not Be Profitable
Even if you are able to sell the home and turn a profit, there may be hidden costs associated with the transaction. For example, real estate commissions can eat up a significant portion of your equity. Additionally, repairs, renovations, and staging expenses all add up quickly and take away from your bottom line.
“The most common mistake I see people make is assuming that selling their house will automatically lead to financial freedom.”
Protecting Your Investment
The best way to protect your investment in a shared property during a divorce is often to work together to find a solution. One option is to continue co-owning the property until the housing market stabilizes, at which point you can sell for maximum value.
If one spouse wishes to keep the home, they may need to buy out the other’s share of the equity. This process should be handled by a professional appraiser to ensure both parties receive a fair deal.
Alternatively, some couples opt to rent out the property after divorcing. This strategy can help both spouses keep their credit scores intact while maintaining joint ownership of the asset.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to handling shared assets like a family home, moving out may seem like the simplest or easiest option. However, taking a step back and working together to come up with a long-term plan can help prevent unexpected losses down the road.
This collaborative approach should involve input from experienced professionals such as lawyers, mediators, appraisers, and financial advisors. With patience, communication, and careful planning, spouses can reduce the risk of losing their equity and preserve this valuable asset for future generations.
You May Have to Pay for Two Households
Divorce can be a difficult and emotional process. When you decide to move out of your shared home during the divorce, it may seem like the best decision to make at the time. However, moving out can also come with unexpected financial consequences that could put added stress on an already tense situation.
One of the biggest financial challenges you will face when moving out is supporting two households instead of one. This means having to pay for rent or mortgage payments, utilities, food, transportation, and other expenses for two separate homes. If you were previously splitting these costs with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, taking on these expenses alone can be a significant burden.
Double the Rent or Mortgage
If you are leaving behind a family home or apartment, finding a new place to live can be costly. Depending on where you live, renting a new home or apartment can mean doubling what you used to pay in rent. Similarly, if you’re planning on buying a new home, you’ll need to put down money for a down payment, closing costs, and other expenses associated with purchasing property.
In addition to the cost of rent or a mortgage payment, you’ll have to factor in additional costs such as furniture, appliances, and decorations. Setting up a new household from scratch can be expensive, especially if you don’t have any items to bring from your previous residence.
Utilities, Food, and Other Expenses
Aside from housing costs, you’ll also need to budget for other expenses such as utilities, food, and transportation. These expenses can quickly add up, particularly if you are used to sharing them with your spouse.
You’ll need to pay for electricity, gas, water, and internet for both your new home and your former shared residence. Additionally, you’ll need to purchase groceries for both households, which can be twice the amount you were used to paying before.
You may also have additional expenses related to transporting yourself between the two locations, such as public transit or gasoline costs. Finally, any unexpected expenses that arise, from medical bills to car repairs, will need to be paid for by one person instead of being split between you and your former partner.
“The cost of setting up a second household during a divorce can lead to financial strain and stress,” says Jordan Alpert, CFP®, a matrimonial wealth advisor in Passaic, New Jersey.”
While it might seem like moving out is the right decision during a divorce, it’s essential to carefully consider the potential consequences, particularly those related to finances. You don’t want to find yourself unable to cover the cost of two homes, especially if there are children involved. Before making any decisions, speak with a financial expert who can help guide you through this challenging process and ensure that your interests are protected.
It Can Impact Your Credit Score
If you are going through a divorce, moving out of the marital home may seem like the best option for comfort and space. However, this decision can have serious consequences on your financial stability in the long run. One major way that moving out can impact your finances is through your credit score.
Missed Payments Can Hurt
When you move out and establish separate living arrangements, you will also have new bills to pay. If you do not properly budget for these expenses or start missing payments, it can reflect poorly on your credit history. Payment history accounts for 35% of your credit score, and even one missed payment can cause significant damage. Not only will your score decrease, but it can take years to recover.
High Debt-to-Income Ratio
Moving out can also create a higher debt-to-income ratio, which can also negatively impact your credit score. With two households to maintain, there may be less money left over at the end of each month to pay down debts. This increased debt load mixed with potentially lower income can make lenders wary of giving you loans or more credit in the future.
Closing Accounts Can Lower Score
Another common mistake people make when moving out during a divorce is closing joint accounts before dividing them. When you close an account, it reduces your available credit limit and raises your overall credit utilization ratio. Closing old accounts can also reduce the length of your credit history, another important factor in determining your credit score. It’s important to work with your ex-spouse to divide accounts fairly while keeping as many open as possible to mitigate these effects.
“Moving out and leaving joint accounts open can be a delicate balancing act, but it’s essential to maintaining good credit after divorce.” -Jeanne Sahadi (CNN)
If you are considering moving out during a divorce, make sure that you have a thorough understanding of how this decision could impact your future financial stability. By being aware of these potential pitfalls, you can take steps to maintain or improve your credit score long after the dust has settled.
It Could Be Used Against You in Court
If you are contemplating moving out of your marital home during a divorce, think twice before making any hasty decisions. Moving out before finalizing the divorce can have significant legal implications and may be one of the biggest mistakes that you make.
Moving out could be used against you in court if children or property are at stake. One spouse may argue that the other abandoned them, leading to potential consequences like losing custody of the children or receiving fewer assets in the settlement.
“In many states, the only way a spouse loses his or her rights as a beneficiary is by executing a written waiver or agreeing to an alternative distribution plan,” -Forbes
By remaining in the house until the divorce process is complete, both parties have equal access to their shared resources. If you have kids, continuing to live in the same home can provide stability for them, and showcase your willingness to co-parent even during challenging times.
Irresponsible Spending Can Be Proof
If you move out and rent another place or buy a new house before settling the details of your divorce, this may lead to irresponsible spending allegations from your spouse. With separate living expenses, you’ll suddenly have less available cash flow than when you were splitting rent/mortgage payments with your spouse.
“Money often costs too much.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Your ex-spouse can petition the court to limit financial support based on evidence of unreasonable spending habits, potentially leaving you in a difficult financial situation. The scrutiny over every dime spent after separation might cause further harm if wasted unwisely.
Moreover, opening new accounts without consent or knowledge is frowned upon, especially if it’s at the time of separation. Courts will pay attention if you suddenly develop the habit of making large cash withdrawals or buying expensive personal items not previously agreed upon.
Living Conditions Can Be Examined
If you move out, your new living arrangements will be taken into account when determining child custody and support. The judge may perceive poor conditions like homelessness or an unsafe environment as evidence that you are incapable of providing suitable living conditions for your children.
If they feel a spouse is trying to sabotage the family’s finances before the official divorce settlement occurs, a judge can set temporary spousal support at rates that won’t create a financial hardship for non-working spouses.
“The court takes it seriously when a parent fails to provide basic necessities or creates chaos in their home life.” -Divorce Magazine
To avoid such issues, make an effort to use legal means rather than moving out independently and triggering assumptions about your intentions. For example, file for temporary orders to spell out responsibilities while waiting for the final decision regarding your divorce agreement.
Carefully consider the consequences before choosing to move out during a time of divorce. Seek advice from reputable sources on all topics related to divorce issues, particularly concerning property settlements, custody agreements, and alimony payments. And always get thorough legal advice, so your decisions don’t harm your chances in the courts unnecessarily.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is staying in the family home important during a divorce?
Staying in the family home during a divorce can provide stability and familiarity for children, reduce stress and financial burden, and allow time to consider long-term living arrangements. It can also help maintain continuity in daily routines and prevent unnecessary disruption to family life.
What are the financial consequences of moving out during a divorce?
Moving out during a divorce can have significant financial consequences, including the need to pay for a new residence, utilities, and other expenses. It can also impact property division and spousal support decisions, potentially resulting in a less favorable outcome. It is important to consider the financial implications before making a decision to move out.
How does moving out affect child custody arrangements?
Moving out during a divorce can impact child custody arrangements, as it may be perceived as abandoning the family home and relinquishing primary custody. It can also complicate visitation schedules and create logistical challenges. It is important to consult with a family law attorney before making any decisions that may impact child custody arrangements.
What are the emotional consequences of leaving the family home during a divorce?
Leaving the family home during a divorce can have significant emotional consequences, including feelings of loss, grief, and uncertainty. It can also be challenging to adjust to new living arrangements and create a sense of stability for children. It is important to prioritize self-care and seek support from family, friends, or a therapist during this difficult time.
Can moving out during a divorce negatively impact the outcome of the divorce settlement?
Moving out during a divorce can potentially negatively impact the outcome of the divorce settlement, particularly in terms of property division and spousal support decisions. It can also create an impression of abandonment and relinquishing primary custody of children. It is important to consult with a family law attorney and carefully consider the potential consequences before making a decision to move out.