Divorce – or separation, or just a breakup – is a period of time that, for many people, comes with a change of address. Whether you’re actually divorcing your former partner or whether you’ve broken up but share children in common, its pretty normal for you to go to a ‘live-in’ situation to an arrangement where you live in separate physical spaces.
This isn’t a discussion of living separate under the same roof, or even how long you can continue to live together in order to save money. Today, I’m here to talk to you about your options when it comes to living separately, at whatever point in the process it happens.
In many cases, things don’t end particularly well and, for about a million different reasons, there’s bad blood on one or both sides. There’s a feeling that, for better or for worse, you want to live your post-divorce, post-breakup life completely separately from your ex, without any interference whatsoever.
Sometimes, there’s safety reasons. Maybe he was aggressive or violent; maybe he’s manipulative and controlling. Maybe he’s got some stalker-ish qualities. Whatever the reason, you don’t really want him to know where you’re living now.
But is that reasonable? Can you keep your new address under wraps?
It seems like a simple question but – like so many things, when it comes to divorce and custody – there are a lot of levels of nuance.
In terms of division of the marital property, it’s likely that he has little or no interest in a new home that you’ve purchased.
In a separation agreement, or in a divorce trial, we’re only interested in dividing the property that has a marital component – so, wherever you lived during the marriage where marital money was used to pay the mortgage or to upkeep the property. We divide the marital portion of the equity roughly 50/50, in most cases.
It’s possible that wherever you’ve moved contains partly marital funds; even though whatever you earn, purchase, or acquire after separation is technically separate property, if you’ve, for example, taken a down payment from marital accounts to pay for the new home, it’s possible that your new house is a hybrid asset and will be partially divided in the divorce.
We usually do included addresses, when we’re talking about homes, because that’s how real estate is identified. Whether in a legal contract, like a separation agreement, or court order, if it’s the result of an order handed down by a judge at a divorce trial, we have to identify the property clearly and unambiguously so that whatever was agreed or ordered can be carried out. We need to know what was agreed or ordered, the specific time frame, etc., so that we can hold either (or both!) parties accountable for not following some or all of the agreement or order. It’s important for enforcement – there’s really no other way to identify a piece of real estate.
I’m not sure you could withhold the address, but it may be worth discussing with your attorney, if that’s a concern that you have.
There’s another reason you might not be able to withhold your address: if you have minor children in common.
As far as custody and visitation is concerned, most judges are of the opinion that both parties have a right to know where their children are, as well as reasonable access to them. If you don’t have a protective order in place, or some kind of significant and well documented concern for your safety as a result of his knowing your address, I think you’re likely to find that the court doesn’t think too much of you withholding the address where your children will be living from their father.
Put the shoes on the other foot for a minute. Would YOU send your children with their father if he refused to share his address with you?
I’m not saying it’s the same thing, or dismissing your concerns. It’s likely that your concerns are real and legitimate; in this article, I’m only guessing at what those might be. I’m just saying that, from a legal perspective, if you tell a judge that you didn’t want to share your address with your child’s father and you don’t have a protective order in place, you might not be putting yourself in the best possible position.
Worst case scenario, it could look like you’re alienating your child or deliberately withholding your child. It could result in him getting custody, or in you having to share a greater amount of time with your child’s father than you bargained on.
If you’re hoping to withhold your address, you’ll want to talk to an attorney sooner rather than later to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this particular course of action. Be willing and able to hear feedback that you consider less than desirable, too. Ultimately, you’re in charge, but you should be calling the shots knowing that there might be disadvantages to your chosen course of action.
For more information, or to schedule a consultation, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.