Even the most cordial divorces will likely involve some conflict over the marital home. If you are contemplating filing for divorce, you have probably wondered what will happen to your home. Alternatively, if you have just been served with divorce papers, you may be wondering what to do next. In this article, we will answer some of these important questions.
Should You Change the Locks? What if Your Spouse Does?
In the absence of immediate danger, you should not change locks to keep out a spouse. If the marital home is community property, a court will award the house to one of the spouses during final proceedings. When making this judgement, the court may look unfavorably upon past behavior such as locking a spouse out of the marital home.
If you find yourself intentionally locked out of the marital home, you should first secure temporary living arrangements, then contact an experienced family law attorney. An experienced attorney will be able to improve your immediate living circumstances during a temporary orders hearing. Then, a court may either award you the right to live in the marital home temporarily, or order that your spouse pay for temporary living accommodations.
What Happens to the Bills in the Meantime?
Whichever spouse stays in the marital home during proceedings will likely be responsible for paying related bills and expenses. This means that that spouse should be able to afford costs such as utilities, yard maintenance, and pool upkeep. If not, the spouse who continues to live in the home during temporary orders must qualify to receive enough support from the other spouse to maintain the marital home until the court determines ownership of the property. Since the court’s goal throughout your case will be to minimize contentiousness and disruption, the spouse that is allowed to stay in the marital home during temporary orders will likely be granted the right to reside there permanently. Hiring an experienced family law attorney could enable you to continue living in the marital home during temporary orders, and consequently, after the filing of a final decree.
Can You Remove Your Spouse as an “Authorized User” of Accounts?
One should exercise caution when removing a spouse from shared accounts; doing so unfairly will likely be frowned upon by the Court. It is advisable to consult an experienced family law attorney before making decisions of this nature.
What Will Happen to My Pet?
Although many individuals consider pets to be members of the family, our court system considers them much like any other material asset subject to division. Court will not consider a pet’s sentimental value when awarding ownership, only a monetary value most established by it’s purchase price or fair market value. Thankfully, any pet owned prior to the date of marriage – or gifted to a spouse – will remain with that spouse. A court can exercise considerable discretion in awarding ownership of a pet; an experienced family law attorney will know ways to increase the likelihood of keeping a pet following final orders.
Consult with a licensed attorney today to discuss your next steps.