Can you move out of your house during a divorce?

by | Apr 1, 2023 | Divorce, Family Law

Moving out is one of the most common questions we receive, but the answer is not as simple as you might think.  Many people think that moving out in the middle of a divorce constitutes “abandonment,” but this is a misconception.  The legal definition of abandonment, pursuant to Alabama law, is voluntary abandonment from bed and board for one year next preceding the filing of the complaint.  This means that simply moving out does not constitute “abandonment” as a fault ground for divorce under the law.  You do not forfeit any assets or any legal right in the marital home because you move out.

This being said, the courts in our area all enter status quo orders when a divorce is filed which basically provides that the parties shall continue to pay their bills and expenses in the same ways and from the same sources as they did prior to filing for a divorce.  This means that many people cannot move out because they cannot financially afford to while also maintaining the status quo regarding the payment of bills.

If children are involved, things get more complicated.  If custody of the children is an issue in your case, your spouse probably will not agree to you moving out and taking the children with you.  If you want to be awarded custody of your children, it is not advisable that you move out and leave the children with your spouse because that creates the appearance that you are essentially agreeing for them to have custody of the children.  Courts can potentially hear requests for temporary custody while a divorce is pending, but they often will not award the same absent an emergency or safety issue.  Often, when both parents want custody of the children, they end up having to live together until their divorce is concluded unless they can reach an agreement about temporary custody and visitation.