Common Questions Series: Can I move out during the divorce?

The most excruciating part of divorce may very well be having to live together while it’s happening.  It’s only natural to want to extract yourself from an unpleasant situation.  So when divorce becomes a reality, it’s only natural for both parties to want to begin living separately.  Can you?

The answer is yes.  There is no law that says you can’t leave.  However, there can be some complications with moving out.  This is where it gets tricky:

  1.  Custody.  If you have children, unless and until you have a court order or a signed agreement establishing a custody plan, you both have equal rights to the children.  However, who has the kids and when?  That’s the problem.  That means one of you can’t just move out and take the kids unless you have consent of the other party.  And if you leave without the kids, when do you get to see them? You’re basically at the mercy of the other parent.  If you do have consent to move out with the kids, make sure it’s in writing somewhere, because if there is ever a dispute about whether there was consent, it’s going to be one person’s word against the other.  The very best circumstance is to have an attorney draft a short agreement for both parties to sign which would address a temporary custody and parenting time arrangement.  At the very least, have email communication with the other party acknowledging consent.  That way if it ever becomes he said/she said, you have some evidence that there really was consent.
  1. Money.  Specifically, paying the bills.  You can’t just move out and leave your bills behind.  So be prepared that you may have to continue to contribute to the home you’re leaving behind and the new one you’re moving into.  If your spouse has asked you to leave, that doesn’t mean you get a pass on paying the bills.  However, you can agree on a financial arrangement
  1. Abandonment.  Let me clear this up because we get this question often.  There is no such thing as “abandonment” in divorce anymore.  Abandonment was just another basis to assert fault so you could file for divorce.  New Jersey is a no-fault divorce state so we don’t need this anymore.  So if you leave, you’re not going to be “charged with abandonment.”  You can, however, be compelled to still contribute to the bills and pay support. 

If you’re planning to move out early on in your divorce, you can, but you want to make sure you properly address certain issues. It requires a careful analysis of your particular circumstances. Let us help you.  Schedule your Client Vision Meeting here.

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