You Want to Divorce but Can't Move Out: What to Do
Deciding to divorce is difficult enough. Once the decision is made, you’re then faced with the realities of making that happen.
But picking up and leaving may not be as simple as it sounds. What happens if you know that moving on is the right next step for you, but moving out is the problem?
It happens: When you want out but can’t leave
For most couples seeking a divorce, one spouse moves out while the other stays in the marital home. But logistical and financial realities can make that impossible.
Between explosive housing prices and a general lack of rentals, if your finances were already tight as a married couple, you know how challenging it will be to live alone. How can you move on when it’s not financially feasible to move out?
Creative options for living apart
Before you make any decisions, you’ll want to understand your state’s divorce laws.
Many states require spouses to be separated for a finite period of time before they can file for divorce. But that time frame, and even the definition of “separate and apart,” can vary from state to state. Some states require spouses to physically live apart; others allow cohabitation under certain conditions.
Once you understand your state laws, you can find creative solutions to your living situation, either temporarily or long-term.
Living together (yet apart)
If your state allows for it, there may be a way that you can live together, yet not “together.”
If you can put your differences aside, you and your spouse may be able to cohabitate in different areas of your shared home while working out the terms of your divorce. Living under the same roof during your divorce process won’t be easy, but it’s a short-term housing alternative that doesn’t require either of you to move out. Some spouses have even found ways to peacefully cohabitate after their divorce.
If you decide co-housing is an option for you, you’ll need to establish very clear boundaries and house rules concerning expenses, privacy, and child care. You’ll also need to establish when it will be time for one of you to move out and who that will be.
If you decide to cohabitate pending your divorce, you’ll also want to be careful about purchases and debt that could complicate property division.
If you’re feeling constrained by the financial aspect of living on your own, you could consider taking in a roommate or moving in with a roommate.
You may not have had a roommate since college, but there can be some great benefits to sharing living space with someone else during and after a divorce, especially if that person is or has been in a similar place in life. Divorce can be lonely, and having another person around can take the edge off that loneliness. Plus, sharing expenses can help you move forward financially during and after your divorce.
Staying with friends or family
While not ideal, temporarily staying with good friends or family members can give you the financial and emotional ability to get out of your current situation and give you time and space to plan for what happens next.
If friends or family want to support you during this time, and you don’t have other alternatives, take them up on their offer. Then, actively focus on your next move.
If you have young kids, “nesting” allows them to slowly adjust to your divorce while giving you time to scope out other living arrangements.
Usually a temporary measure, nesting is an option that allows your kids to stay in the home you share with your soon-to-be ex while you both move in and out when it’s your turn to co-parent. The kids benefit from the continuity of living in the same space and seeing both parents, while you can take your time to find housing alternatives that work for you and your kids long-term.
Will I lose property rights if I move out of our shared house?
In most cases, no. Some states allow for abandonment as grounds for divorce, but this requires you to be gone for a period of time (typically over a year) and taken up residence elsewhere with no intention of returning. If your home was purchased and titled as a couple during your marriage, it is still considered a joint marital asset.
What if my spouse can afford to move out but won’t go?
If your spouse refuses to move out of your home despite being the one financially able to do so, you have two options.
- If there has been domestic violence in your home, you can call the police. This will lead to a protective order signed by the court directing your spouse to stay away from you.
- You can ask for a temporary order from the family court when you file your divorce petition or after a petition is filed. Temporary orders can arrange for many things, including possession of the marital home, child custody or support, spousal support, and ordering a spouse not to sell marital assets.
Navigating a divorce can be emotionally and financially overwhelming. Hello Divorce is here to support you in all aspects of the divorce process. We offer online divorce plans, flat-rate professional services, and other important resources.
You don’t have to do this alone. We’re here to help. Schedule a free 15-minute phone call to learn more.