Seasons are changing. Leaves are falling.  Finally.  You made the decision.

You tried to make it work, going to countless counseling sessions, talking about your feelings, and making a concerted effort to get back to the way things were when you first got married.  Last night’s argument was the last straw but where do you go from here?

Your first inclination may be to pack your things and leave the house. Stop and reconsider.  Let things calm down and then, and only then, figure out the next steps in the divorce process. Before you move out of the house, do you understand all of your options?  Have you considered the consequences of that decision?  Unless there is domestic violence, and you fear for the safety of you or your children, leaving the house may not be the best decision.  Here are 3 reasons why:

Leaving the house may allow your spouse to change the locks on the doors, even if you still own the property and your name is on the deed.  If you try to go back, and the locks are changed, then you may find yourself at the curb with the rest of the fall leaves.  Without an express invitation from your spouse who still resides in the home, or a court order, your options are limited.

Leaving the house also has ramifications for your children. Presuming the children stay in the house and you are the one to leave, your spouse can dictate a parenting schedule – a schedule that will probably not give you enough quality time with your children.   Do you really want to impact your family tree?

Leaving the house may prematurely cut your tree in half.  Generally speaking, when a spouse leaves, the clock stops for purposes of what is considered marital property. The date you move out becomes the marker in time as to what is separate property, what is marital property, and what is divisible property.  This can hurt or help but until you know the answer, leaving may not be the right decision for you and your family.

I know what you are thinking:  What am I supposed to do if leaving poses such risks?  Though not always easy, you can work through all of the issues resulting from the anticipated dissolution of your marriage while living together.   At first glance the idea seems rather odd.  In reality, it provides both sides the opportunity to be most informed with continued access to the children and less financial leverage. While the tree may seem sturdy, navigating a settlement of all terms can be tricky. Make sure you understand all of your options before you fall off the branch.

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