Do I Have to Get out of the House?

When a marriage ends, usually one person or the other will move out of the marital home to begin the required period of separation. It’s usually a part of a natural progression, and at that point it’s better for both people if they begin to live separately. In other cases, however, leaving the marital home becomes a fight all it’s own, especially if one person owned the home prior to the marriage.

“Our marriage is over! Get out!”

I’ve had countless women call me crying because their husbands told them they had to get out of the house. Because the home was his prior to the marriage, or because only his name is on the deed, these women often really do think that they stay or leave on his whim. That is not the case.

You have a right to stay in the marital residence until you’re ordered to leave it. Of course, if the house was his prior to marriage, you probably WILL be ordered to leave (or agree to leave) eventually. But that doesn’t mean that as soon as he tells you to get out that you have to immediately pack your bags and find somewhere else to go.

Most of the time, a divorce is resolved by a document called a separation agreement. It’s a legal contract in which the parties to the marriage agree about how to settle the assets, liabilities, and responsibilities resulting from the marriage. In that document, you would decide what your share of the marital residence is, if any, and what you’re going to do with it. If it’s a marital asset, usually one party will buy the other out (and the other will agree to leave by a certain time), or the parties will sell the home and split the proceeds. If he owned it prior to marriage, you may not receive any portion of the equity (unless you made some substantial improvements to the home), but you can agree on a date to leave the home.

If you’re fighting your divorce out in court, you don’t have to leave the home until the judge orders you to leave it. He could order exclusive possession of the home to your husband at the pendente lite (temporary support) hearing or at trial.

The bottom line is that you don’t have to leave the marital home just because your husband says so. Of course, if there is any physical or emotional abuse going on, it may be better for you to leave.

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