TO MOVE OR NOT TO MOVE …
One of the more frequent questions that come up in our practice is whether a party can or should move out of the marital home before or during a divorce proceeding. The answer, unfortunately, is not a simple yes or no. And often it comes up after someone already has moved out!
Reasons why one might want to leave a marital home before or during a divorce are: physical and/or emotional abuse; infidelity; new employment; the emotional need to get away, etc. The are equally compelling reasons to stay in the home during divorce proceedings and perhaps live separately under the same roof, such as the financial considerations –savings offered by not having two residences, convenience; parental obligations or concerns about parenting. Each situation is different. It is wise not to be impulsive about the decision of whether to leave or stay. Consultation with an attorney is best, to learn fully what your rights and responsibilities are. At a minimum there are certain items, which must be considered,
Here are a few of the more frequent questions we receive:
- Can I have a legal separation and move out on a trial basis? Pennsylvania does not recognize the concept of legal separation. However, establishing an agreed upon date of separation is important because there are important economic implications that flow from the date of separation. The date of separation can be the date a party moves out; the date a divorce complaint is filed; the date the parties live separate and apart but under the same roof. If parties do not agree upon a date, the matter may end up in litigation.
- Do I abandon my rights if I move out? If your home is a marital property, you do not relinquish your property interest in the home by moving out. However, that being said, you have certain responsibilities and obligations that must be maintained. You cannot neglect these, and moving out may have an impact on how property is allocated in equitable distribution down the road.
- Do I give up rights to see my children if I move out? While it may become more difficult to see your children daily as you did when you lived at home with them, your legal and physical rights do not change unless and until there is a legal agreement or custody order. If you move out (for whatever reason) we urge parents to keep up regular contact and overnight visits with their children. If you do not return to the marital home, custody will have to be addressed.
- If I have moved out voluntarily, can my spouse keep me from coming back? As we noted, there are different reasons why one may choose to move out prior to a divorce; however, if it is not because one party has “exclusive possession” of the marital home, and unless there are any other legal restrictions, the home remains a place to which you can return.
- Is it financially a good idea to move out? Ahh this is a complicated question, and the answer will vary depending upon factors including whether you have children, a mortgage, the amount of your earnings and your spouse’s, earnings, the costs of your new residence and other factors. You legal advisor can review all these items with you.
If you are considering a separation, or are in the process of a divorce, and are wondering about the implications of moving out of your home, it is best to consult with an experienced family law attorney before you move. The lawyers at Bookspan Family Law, LLC would be happy to meet with you at your convenience. To set up a consultation, please call 610 565 6200