No one wants to live with their ex, but deciding when, how, and whom to move out of the family home can be stressful and perplexing. Here are the key issues to consider.
Can you afford to remain in the family home?
If you or your spouse moved out, where would you go? Most likely, one of you will wind up renting an apartment or buying another home. Based on how much money you and your spouse have and how much is coming in, can you afford to continue paying your mortgage and taxes once you subtract the money for a second residence?
If the answer is “no,” you may be looking at selling your family home, rather than one or the other of you taking possession of it.
Who will have custody during the school week?
It’s best, if you can, to avoid compounding the stress your children are already experiencing as a result of your divorce with the stress of changing schools. If possible, it is best for the children to continue living in the family home. Therefore, how you divide custody will also impact who continues to live in the family home.
Are you hoping to have a judge decide who will get the family home?
Judges are human. Like most people, they are unlikely to change something that seems to be working. They want to maintain the status quo. If you want to eventually live in and receive ownership of the marital estate, stay in the house as long as possible (unless of course there is domestic violence). You should be aware that all states require a period of separation without cohabitation. Generally, staying in your marital home will not violate this rule as long as you do not have sexual relations with your spouse and perhaps you sleep in different rooms. Nevertheless, you should consult an attorney in your state regarding your decision to stay in the marital home.
Is it safe for you to remain in the family home?
In divorces that involve domestic violence, continuing to live together may be impossible. Nevertheless, when cohabitation is possible, often it is best to let the judge be the one to remove you or your spouse from the house unless your spouse will voluntarily move out. But that will be a decision you need to make after discussing it fully with your lawyer. At the end of your divorce, the judge may not want to rearrange everyone’s lives—especially if children are involved. If you move into an apartment and your spouse is living in the house, the judge may think, “Well, this person seems to be taking good care of the house and the children seem to be adjusting well. I guess they should retain ownership.”
Your goal right now is to set up the life situation you hope to maintain after the divorce. If you want the house, live there. If you want full custody of your kids, within reason, keep them with you. But know that judges dislike parents who keep children from other parents, so unless there are very good reasons that your spouse should not get quality time with the children, you should do what is in your child’s best interest. Of course, if there is violence or potential harm, you should never put yourself or your children in a dangerous or vulnerable situation, and you should always call 911 if violence occurs.