To say that your marriage has been rocky lately would be a massive understatement. Now, things have come to a head, and a divorce is on the table. Your spouse has suggested (or demanded) that you find somewhere else to live.
Can you be forced to leave your own home? Washington does not require divorcing spouses to live separately and apart prior to their split, and there are some good reasons you may not want to pack a bag until you’re required. Here’s what you should know:
Absent a court order, you have every right to be there
Your spouse can ask you to leave, but they can’t force you – unless they have a court order giving them exclusive use of the house while the issues in your divorce are sorted out. That generally only happens if there’s an allegation of domestic violence against you.
Once you leave, it may be harder to get back in
If you do leave the house prior to filing for divorce, the court may take that into consideration when it issues any temporary restraining orders once the divorce is filed. These are generally designed to preserve the “status quo” as of the moment the petition appears before the court.
If your spouse is already the only one living in the home, they may be granted its exclusive use and control until the divorce is settled. That could make it very difficult for you to access documents or other things that you need.
Leaving could affect your custody plans
If you have minor children with your spouse, leaving the home prior to the establishment of a parenting plan that gives you what you want in terms of custody could be a bad decision.
While shared parenting has become more normalized, the court may still consider your absence from the home and the kids’ daily routine proof that you aren’t suitable as a primary caretaker. The court can also decide that the children have already adjusted to their new reality with your co-parent, and relegate you to just visitation so that the kids don’t have to go through another adjustment.
When a divorce is looming large, make sure you have the right team on your side to protect what you value the most.