It's a scene depicted in many movies and TV shows: one spouse is shown angrily throwing clothes into a suitcase, with the obvious intent of leaving the marital home and not coming back. It makes for good drama, but may not be a wise move in real life.
Contrary to what many people believe, a party who moves out of the marital home has not "abandoned" the property, and does not lose any equity to which they are otherwise entitled. However, there are a number of reasons why moving out of the marital home before divorce may be inadvisable.
As discussed below, there may be legal and practical advantages to staying in the marital home pending divorce. That said, no advantage is worth risking one's safety or that of one's children. Victims of domestic abuse who feel unsafe in the home may wish to consult Minnesota resources that can help them protect their families and move out of the home in a way that is designed to keep them safe.
Moving out may jeopardize parenting time. If one parent moves out of the house, leaving the other parent in the home with the children, the departing spouse may not get to have as much parenting time as he or she desires. The spouse who stays behind will be responsible for the children, including their day-to-day schedules. Absent a temporary parenting time order, the spouse who stays could essentially control how often the children see the parent who left.
Eventually, a judge will enter an order regarding parenting time. If an informal pattern of parenting time has been established over time, the judge may be inclined to order parenting time in accordance with the existing pattern. This outcome is likely to be less favorable to the parent who left the home and who therefore had limited input as to the parenting time schedule in the first place.
Moving out may jeopardize one's ability to keep the marital home. Although moving out of the marital home doesn't jeopardize one's share of equity in the marital home, it may jeopardize the chances of being awarded the home itself in the divorce. Simply put, a court may be unlikely to upset the status quo. If one spouse has moved out of the house, a judge may be unlikely to award that spouse the house in the divorce so that they can move back in, forcing the spouse who chose not to leave to move out.
Moving out may jeopardize possessions left behind in the home. As a practical matter, it may not be possible for a spouse who moves out of the marital home to take every valued possession when leaving. Some property, like furniture, may be too large to move; the ownership of other property, such as art and collectibles, may be disputed. While neither party can prevent the other from re-entering the home in the absence of a court order, once there is a locked door between the departing spouse and his or her things, a measure of control over the property is lost.
If a move out is necessary, it may be advisable for the spouse who is moving out to make copies of records showing ownership and value of certain items, and to try to take a photo or video inventory so the spouse remaining in the house can not later argue that certain items were not present in the marital home.
Moving out impulsively makes it difficult to move back in. For individuals who are at all ambivalent about moving out of the marital home, moving out can have lasting negative consequences. Avoidable conflict may be created if a spouse moves out and then has a change of heart and wants to move back in. In addition, if there are children in the home, having a parent move out, then back in, can be upsetting and confusing.
Proper planning always makes divorce easier. Those considering moving out of the marital home prior to divorce must plan carefully in order to preserve their rights. It's always wise to discuss possible ramifications with an experienced Minnesota divorce attorney before moving out. We invite you to contact Bloch and Whitehouse at (952)224-9977 to schedule a consultation to learn more about moving out and divorce in Minnesota.