Today’s divorce tip involves a commonly asked question, especially in North Carolina – Who moves?  I encourage all of my clients to at least consider the possibility of a collaborative divorce, and if you go that route, this is one of the many issues that can get worked out during the “four-way” meetings that are the hallmark of the collaborative process.

In North Carolina, if you want a divorce, you must separate from your spouse for at least a year.  Practically speaking, this poses a number of problems – not the least of which is how to pay for two households on the income that is accustomed to supporting one household.

A number of factors should play a role in determining who should move out, including the following:

  • Does either spouse have a non-marital claim to the marital home?  In other words, did one spouse own the house prior to the marriage?  If so, that is likely the spouse that will stay in the home.
  • Are their children involved?  It is never easy to uproot children, especially once they have started school.  If you and your spouse cannot agree on a fair custody arrangement, then both of you may refuse to leave until an agreement can be worked out between the two of you.  You may need an attorney to help you to draft this agreement.
  • Do you have a dual-income or a single-income household?
  • Do you or your spouse have family or close friends that one of you can stay with temporarily?

Unfortunately, there is no way to get around this legal requirement.  You must separate, and you must stay separated for at least one year.  Things are stressful.  They will likely get worse before they get better.

Moving out of the house can have dramatic effects on the case.  Do not do it without discussing it with your lawyer and giving it a great deal of thought.

One caveat hereIf domestic violence is an issue, then all of this is moot.  You will need to take whatever steps are necessary to protect yourself.  Remember to keep your lawyer informed about what is happening in your situation.

The information in this post was prepared in part with information originally posted on the Alabama Family Law Blog.