The decision to Divorce means that one or both of you will be moving. Typically, one person moves out soon after concluding that a divorce will happen. This emotionally charged time will place heavy stress on you. Divorce moving tips can help you navigate the upheaval caused by ending a relationship and switching to a single-income lifestyle.
Should I Move Out Before the Divorce Is Finalized?
To answer this question, you need legal advice from a family law lawyer. Laws about divorce and division of marital property vary by state and country.
You may have heard that moving out before the divorce becomes legally final hurts your ability to keep your share of property. This is generally not true because people often need to remove themselves from the marital household for their own safety or because they are outraged by the other spouse’s behavior.
Delaying your move is much less of a concern if you and your spouse rented. In that case, there is no primary residence real estate to fight over or lose.
Should you need to remove yourself from the marital home prior to finalizing of the divorce, take only a minimum of personal possessions and any small sentimental items that might be unsafe in the presence of your ex-spouse. Many of your possessions could be subject to property division in the divorce, and you want to avoid the appearance of seizing property before your sole possession of it has been legally established.
Keep in mind that staying elsewhere and formally moving out are two different things. If you’re still paying the house payment and utilities but staying with a relative or at a motel, you have not abandoned the property. You are sleeping elsewhere but still meeting your obligations as the owner of your home.
In truth, only a lawyer can tell you if moving out before the divorce is finalized will hurt you in your jurisdiction. A divorce lawyer can advise you on how to move out without compromising your rights.
General Divorce Moving Tips
Gather your personal documents, like Social Security card, passport, and birth certificate. You do not want to lose access to these because they are difficult to replace. A vengeful ex-spouse could also use your personal, identifying information to open credit accounts in your name and steal from you.
Gather your financial records, such as W2s, copies of tax returns, bank account statements, retirement plan statements, property titles, and investment records. You need to disclose this information during the divorce so that your assets may be legally divided.
Rent a post office box for your mail while your life is in flux. Have your mail, particularly all financial statements, sent to your PO box so that your soon-to-be-ex-spouse cannot see them or steal them. You should get a PO Box even if you do not move out of the marital home before completing the divorce for the sake of protecting your privacy.
Divorce Moving Tips for Nonparents or Those With Adult Children
Divorce comes in two varieties: those involving spouses without kids or whose children are grown and those with spouses who have young children.
If your divorce does not involve children, you will have more moving options. You’ll have the freedom to live wherever you want without the constraint of needing to stay near your young children.
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Moving out after a divorce under these circumstances involves:
- Deciding where you want to live
- Calculating what your housing budget can cover
For the most part, your budget will be your biggest concern after a divorce. Going from a dual-income household to a single-income household changes things in terms of housing.
If your spouse was not bringing in any income, the shift to your own household may not be financially difficult. However, you may run the risk of a court ordering you to pay spousal support for a time, which would compromise your housing budget.
You may also discover that housing costs are much higher now than when you bought or rented your marital home. Even if you have a decent income, this reality can be a problem.
To make your housing budget go further after a divorce, you could:
- Get one or more roommates
- Move in with a family member
- Downsize to a small or studio apartment
- Buy or rent a home in a mobile home park
- Move to a lower cost of living area
You may need to move in with a relative for a while to save up enough money for a deposit or downpayment on a new home. You could offer your relative a modest rent amount that leaves you with enough income to save for new housing.
Some people start saving for this purpose for months or years prior to discussing the divorce with their spouses. They want to be ready to go as soon as possible and able to set up an independent household.
Divorce Moving Tips for Parents of Minor Children
Children complicate the moving process under all circumstances, but divorce introduces new concerns about your children’s well-being and the law.
You will need to establish a separate household that the court deems suitable for children. At a minimum, your children will need to have a bedroom of their own, which usually means getting at least a two-bedroom apartment or house.
If you value living with your children, you need to make finding suitable family housing a priority. A family court can deny custody to parents who cannot meet minimum housing standards for their children.
As a parent, your option for having a roommate to share housing expenses diminishes. Your roommate would need to be considered safe. Otherwise your ex-spouse could argue that the children are in an unsafe environment due to the presence of a non-family adult in the home.
Also, most roommates have little interest in sharing a home with young children.
As a result, you can expect to be setting up your new home by yourself or with relatives.
If your kids are school age, then you should strive to find a new home close to their school district. They are already experiencing so much disruption due to the divorce. You should try to avoid forcing them to switch schools, which can be hard for children under the best of circumstances.
Because shared custody is increasingly the norm for parents, geography could reduce your moving options. Both parents may need to stay somewhat close to each other so that you can exchange children every week according to your custody schedule.
If you need to move far away, you would need to negotiate a custody schedule that lets the kids live with you for weeks or months at a time. Alternatively, you could pursue full custody.
Parental relocation is normally a contentious issue in custody negotiations. The possibility exists that you may not be able to move far away if you want to maintain regular contact with your children.
Family courts tend to favor arrangements that allow both parents to care for children while keeping the kids’ lives stable. For example, most families want their children to attend the same school district all year and every year.
Your first move after divorce might be done in haste. Perhaps you moved in with a relative or to a cheap residential hotel. You might have even rented your own apartment if you had the means.
These living arrangements are often temporary. Once the divorce is final, you can focus on finding the most suitable housing for your post-divorce life.
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