Should You Move Out of Your Shared Home During the Divorce Process?

Are you planning to separate or get divorced? You might be tempted to move out of the home you share with your spouse or domestic partner ASAP. After all, it's no fun living in a house with someone you dislike or have no intention of continuing your life with. Once you've made the decision to part ways, you might feel rushed, like everything needs to get done at once: moving out, dividing property, determining custody and support arrangements, and more.
But divorce is not a single event. Rather, it's a process ... a journey. And although you may want to get everything done today so you can move on with your life, it's not logistically possible.
Before you take one of the major leaps involved in divorce – living apart – it's a good idea to carefully consider and plan for some key issues such as your finances, spousal support, and custody arrangements. 
Here are some things to think about before moving out of your home.

Your finances

Moving out of your marital home is understandably appealing in the face of an impending divorce. But the havoc that moving out would wreak on your finances may be one reason to hit the "pause" button. Take a close look at your budget. What can you afford? Do you anticipate receiving or paying spousal support or child support in the near future? This could drastically impact your finances.

Before you make a move, it's a good idea to initiate a discussion with a financial advisor. They can look at your finances, help you determine what you can afford, and make a plan that keeps your housing situation secure through this transition and beyond.

Who gets the house in divorce? How do you split the value? Try our Home Equity Buyout Calculator.

Possible legal repercussions

Moving out can cause an array of legal issues that may be expensive and time-consuming to deal with, not to mention emotionally draining. For example, have you and your soon-to-be ex figured out who would pay the mortgage, taxes, and insurance for the home if you moved out? Or if they moved out? Further, would one of you be entitled to credits for overpayment or underpayment of the expenses associated with the house?

Inevitably, one or both of you will move out of the home (unless you have kids and opt for a nesting custody situation). Before that happens, it's wise to determine the answer to the expensive questions (mortgage, taxes, etc.) mentioned here. If the situation is too tense to work out these details yourselves, consider hiring a mediator to help you make these big decisions. A mediator is an impartial third party who will work with both of you to devise solutions you can both live with. 

Your custody agreement 

Before you move out, carefully consider how a change in your location could impact your children and future custody arrangements.

Consider the following questions:

  • Have you and your spouse reached a custody agreement? If so, would the new home be conducive to that?
  • Might you be jeopardizing your ability to co-parent or obtain custody if you move out?
  • Do you have the legal authority to move out and take the children with you? (Often, the answer to this question is no.)

The last thing you want is to place your kids in the middle of a terrible fight over where they will live. If you're considering moving out, co-parenting counseling, mediation, or a legal motion may be in order. Preparing for parenting apart is a vital step.

Your assets and debts

An important part of a divorce is dividing debts and assets accurately. While the law requires spouses to provide full financial disclosure to one another in most states, spouses sometimes make a strong effort to conceal information or hide assets. While you are still living in the home, it's easier to access information your spouse could later try to "hide" from you.

Get copies of all asset, debt, and income information from your personal computer and files. Get records that may be helpful to your various legal claims. It's far easier to take matters into your own hands now than to ask for this information later, during litigation. 

Tip: Because personal property has a tendency to "disappear" or get lost in the shuffle, consider creating a photo or video inventory of all furniture, furnishings, and possessions in the home.

See our Pre-Leaving Checklist for more help.

Your forwarding address 

If you don't want your spouse to know where you are moving (for example, in the case of domestic violence), it's a good idea to get a post office box and complete a change of address form with the post office as soon as possible. But in the emotional turmoil of divorce, it can be easy to forget to do this.

For several reasons, it's a good idea to avoid making a rushed decision about where you will live post-divorce. For example, if you'll be renting, you undoubtedly want something you can afford. But do you know what you'll be able to afford? The dust hasn't settled on your post-divorce finances yet, so it's a good idea to be cautious here. If you intend to buy a new place, make sure you have the resources to do so. Speak with an attorney about your rights in this regard to the purchase of a new home doesn't just create more troubles for you. 

That said, if you're living in a home with domestic abuse, your safety (and the safety of your kids) should trump all other concerns. If you're unsure what to do or who to turn to, consider giving the National Domestic Violence Hotline a call at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Moving out of the marital home is a big deal. Do not make significant financial decisions like signing a lease on a new home or buying a new car before you know if you can afford it. If your divorce has already been filed, make sure the act of moving out does not violate any standard restraining orders. For expert advice on this and other issues, contact us at Hello Divorce today.

Not sure where to start? Schedule a FREE 15-minute phone call with a member of our team.

Hello Divorce CEO Erin Levine answers the question: Can I file for divorce if I'm still living with my spouse?


Founder, CEO & Certified Family Law Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Insights, Legal Insights
After over a decade of experience as a Certified Family Law Specialist, Mediator and law firm owner, Erin was fed up with the inefficient and adversarial “divorce corp” industry and set out to transform how consumers navigate divorce - starting with the legal process. By automating the court bureaucracy and integrating expert support along the way, Hello Divorce levels the playing field between spouses so that they can sort things out fairly and avoid missteps. Her access to justice work has been recognized by the legal industry and beyond, with awards and recognition from the likes of Women Founders Network, TechCrunch, Vice, Forbes, American Bar Association and the Pro Bono Leadership award from Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Erin lives in California with her husband and two children, and is famously terrible at board games.