By Sarah Merry
There is a terrible rumor that when a couple decides to divorce or separate, one party must immediately leave the house.
In more cases than not, the husband leaves the house to move into a dinky apartment while his wife and children remain in the home. In many of the remaining cases, the wife takes the children and flees the home, leaving the husband in the dust and away from his kids.
Due to ever so prevalent gender biases, a woman who leaves the home or takes the children and leaves the home is assumed to be “protecting” herself or the children; there is an assumption that her husband is an abuser or an alcoholic.
A man who leaves the home, conversely, is labeled a kidnapper or someone who abandoned his family.
Due to these unfortunate gender biases it is generally a good idea to remain in the home until there is an agreement or court order that states otherwise, even if there are no children of the marriage.
Once a party leaves the home, it is very difficult for that party to get back into the home. If you are considering leaving the marital home, stop and consider other options first, and discuss it with your men's divorce attorney.
If your reason for wanting to leave the home is that you simply cannot tolerate to be in your wife’s presence any longer, consider moving out of the shared bedroom. If space allows, many find it helpful to take refuge in their own separate room of the house.
Staying active and busy also tends to help manage the stress and frustration of being around your soon-to-be-ex-spouse. Go for a walk, read to your kids, clean the house or do yard work; often times, the less interaction that you have with your spouse, the better.
If you are considering moving out so that you can reside with your paramour, wait! Even when there are no children involved, leaving your wife in the home to go live with your girlfriend is not always well received by the courts.
Again, a man who does this is assumed to have abandoned his family while a female is said to be protecting or taking care of herself. This is not a fair bias but it will not suddenly change with your case – it is something that is progressively changing over time. Avoid being scrutinized all together by waiting to move out until there is an agreement or court order.
If your reason for contemplating a move is because you are being abused by your wife - verbally, emotionally, or physically - there are several factors to consider.
First, is the abuse being documented? Pictures of physical injuries, recordings, and written forms of admission of the abuse should all be kept. Consider filing a police report even if this means making a trip to the station rather than calling the police to the residence.
Is the abuse taking place in the presence of the children or are the children being abused? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, a whole new can of worms is opened. There are some states that will consider a parent’s tolerance of abuse in the presence of children to be an endangerment of the children’s welfare.
Applying for an Order of Protection in this case should be strongly considered. By applying for an Order of Protection you are alerting the court to the fact that there is an issue of safety and that you are trying to protect yourself and/or your children.
If you have to take your children and leave, or leave alone, even an application for an Order of Protection can help show your decision to leave was justified. Again, this is a decision that will be ideally made with your attorney’s input.
The decision whether to remain in the home will likely have an impact on the outcome of your divorce. Make this decision wisely and always consult with your men’s divorce attorney first.