Your spouse announces that they want a divorce. They ask you to leave the family home to make things easier. You’re hurt, maybe even angry, and your first thought is something like, “Fine. I don’t want to stay where I’m not wanted.”
Hold up. Before you pack your bags and head somewhere else, it’s important to consider how leaving the home before the divorce is final — or even filed — can affect your interests. Some of the negatives about leaving include:
- Losing access to the home (and everything in it): Once the paperwork for the divorce is filed, automatic stays are set into motion that may prohibit you from intruding on your spouse’s space. If that’s the family home, you may no longer be able to access anything that’s there — even if it’s rightfully yours.
- Unnecessary expenses: If you leave the home and stop paying your share of the bills, you open yourself up to charges that you abandoned your spouse and children — and that won’t play out well in court. Yet, it can be difficult to afford the expense of a new place plus your regular monthly bills at the family home.
- Problems with custody: The court decides custody based on the best interests of the children, and one of the factors considered is the need for stability in a child’s life. If you leave your children in your spouse’s care when you move out, you may give them the ability to later claim that sharing custody would be disruptive. That could leave you with just visitation instead of the equal split you desire.
Naturally, you can’t just wait around and do nothing if your spouse wants a divorce. Before you decide on your next move, however, consider getting some experienced legal counsel about your situation.