When a divorce is filed, either by you or your spouse, it sets up a potentially awkward (at best) situation in your home. You and your spouse know that your marriage will not continue and that life as you know it is about to change dramatically. At worst, it can set up a potentially dangerous situation where your well-being or that of another family member may be in jeopardy due to threats of violence by your spouse. There is no telling how your spouse will react to being served with divorce papers.
With that said, it is essential to do what you must to keep yourself safe. Hopefully, your situation does not involve threats of violence, but if it does, safety should be your number one priority. In all other situations, it is probably not advisable for you to move out of your home unless ordered to by a judge or agreed to in mediation. The reasons for that are many and will be discussed today in this blog post from the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC.
Financial and personal reasons exist to remain in the home after a divorce has been filed.
While your home is the likely site of many family memories, it is also the most significant and most valuable financial asset you and your spouse own. The emotional and familial attachments to the home only add to the desire to do what is best and protect your rights. Each family situation is different from the next, so you will need to read this blog post from that perspective. Apply the general principles laid out in this format and apply them to your family's divorce.
Safety, safety, safety
I cannot emphasize enough just how important it is for you to consider your safety and your children during a divorce. I know that you may be thinking that your spouse has never been violent. They sing in the church choir. They are a teacher. They wouldn't hurt a fly. You may be right about all those things, but the fact remains that something can happen to a person when a divorce is filed. It does not matter if they filed the divorce or if you did. Emotions get stirred up, and people stop reasoning in many divorces. If your spouse exhibits dangerous and violent behavior towards you and your children, take the intelligent approach and leave home immediately.
You can ask your attorney to file for a protective order in your case to allow for a court-ordered removal of your spouse from home. However, this takes at least a couple of days to complete, and if you do not have that sort of time to wait, you need to leave first. You should probably leave your home regardless, even if a protective orders hearing is pending. If you remove your children from home (which I would imagine you would do), you need to file for a temporary order hearing as soon as possible so that your spouse and you will have an opportunity to address this issue with a judge.
Situations involving family violence are more explicit examples of how and why one spouse needs to leave the marital home. It is not as easy to analyze what should happen in other situations. The remainder of today's blog post will cover situations like this.
Children will impact the decision-making process.
Judges will act in your child's best interests when making decisions about them. In the eyes of most judges, what is best for children is consistency and stability. When you decide how to proceed with either remaining in your home or deciding to leave, you must think about this factor first. What will a judge likely think about your actions? Are you doing things that will increase the stability and consistency of your children, or are you acting in a manner that will not further that goal?
For instance, suppose that you decide to leave home yet are planning to ask for primary conservatorship with the right to designate the children's primary residence for the duration of your divorce. You are essentially asking a judge to take your children from the family home and place them in your new residence. This is not an impossible request, but everything else is equal. It is difficult considering that judges will want to maintain the status quo for your children wherever possible.
Your spouse will likely be ready and eager to argue that uprooting the children and placing them with you will be a massive disruption to their day-to-day lives. School, extracurriculars, and friends are all centered around your family home. This may be argued as too much change, too quickly if you live across town.
On the other hand- you can argue that the move was made to reduce conflict and any risk of harm that could have resulted in your remaining in the family home. You were doing what you thought was in the children's best interests and have shown a desire to have as much time with your kids as possible.
Money, money, money
When you or your spouse move out of your home, it may be the situation that the spouse who no longer lives in the home is no longer willing to participate and contribute to paying the household bills. A divorce has been filed does not mean that the mortgage, utilities, and other bills no longer have to be paid. If you do not have an income, you may be forced to remain in the home because you cannot afford to pay additional bills.
On the other hand, if you are the "earner" in the family, do not expect that your leaving the family home will put an end to your responsibilities to provide for your family. You will likely be expected to pay the bills just as you had before. It does not matter if you move out. Your responsibilities will continue for as long as your case goes on. That does not mean that your spouse will not eventually have to get a job. However, for now, you are still going to have to bear the responsibility of maintaining the family home- especially if you have children living there.
The solutions that I speak of in this section may not work for you, but they are creative nonetheless. If you have relatives or friends who are willing to help you during the divorce (and your spouse does as well), you can each take turns living in the marital home with your children while the divorce goes on. I have never had a client do this, but I have heard from other attorneys. On some level, it makes sense, but you and your spouse would need to work through the logistical problems that it presents to make it work.
A more common scenario involves you and your spouse remaining in the house together during the divorce but splitting the place in two, a la "I Love Lucy." Draw a line down the center and stick to your side. This takes communication and tolerance of your spouse. If those characteristics are not in place, this option may not work.
Questions about divorce? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
If you have any questions about your particular divorce circumstances, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week with one of our licensed family law attorneys. Our attorneys and staff take a great deal of pride in representing the interests of our clients in courtrooms across our state. It is a privilege to work on behalf of Texans just like yourself, and we look forward to the opportunity to discuss your case with you.