This is a common question that is asked of me by new clients, obviously concerned as to the impact such an action may have on a future property settlement if they move out of the home. Frequently parties can agree that one of them will remain in the home if they are to be the major carer of the children of the relationship (so maintaining security and stability for the children), and if the other party can arrange alternative accommodation.
However there is often conflict as to who will move out, and this causes problems for the entire family, more particularly financial difficulties as to who is going to continue with the mortgage instalments, rates, insurance and household expenses etc. if the other partner has to move out and pay removal expenses, rent etc.
Some couples can manage to separate under the one roof, however depending on the size of the home, this situation can be stressful for everyone, and a decision eventually has to be made as to who will move. If the parties are in dispute as to how their property is to be divided, the property settlement could be delayed for many months (or years) waiting for a court to deal with the division of property. The home situation is made more stressful for children if the parties are continually in conflict and everyone is living under the one roof.
Whether a partner remains in the home, or moves out, will generally have little impact on the final property settlement. The party who remains has the benefit of living in the home, while the party who leaves has the burden of paying rent.
There are situations where the party who moves out also has to continue to pay the mortgage instalments (or part of the instalments), but this would be weighed up against the efforts of the remaining party who continues to maintain the property. It would be unusual in that case that the partner who moved out and continued to pay part or all of the mortgage instalments would be reimbursed for the whole amount he or she paid. The length of time this arrangement continued could become a consideration in assessing post-separation contributions as part of the property settlement.
In other cases there is concern that the party who remains in the home will deliberately not maintain it adequately, it will become run down, and lose value (particularly if the home is to be sold). If deliberate damage is done to the home, this could be reflected in the final settlement. However a failure to mow lawns, maintain gardens or accumulate rubbish may, in the long run, have little effect on the selling price, especially if agreement can be reached to tidy up the property in order to present well for a sale.
The final decision to move out of a family home is very often based on the level of conflict between the partners, and the stress and anxiety this causes to the entire family. Every property settlement is different, and it is wise to obtain legal advice before taking the step of relocating. If a client is determined to move out of a home, for whatever reason, my general advice is to take everything that will be required, because in most cases it could be difficult to get back in to the home to retrieve items that had been overlooked.
Lyn Lucas is the owner of Online Divorce Lawyer. With 25 years experience in family law Lyn empathises with couples going through a separation and a property settlement. Her focus with Online Divorce Lawyer is to reduce the pain and deliver excellent results in the process of a property settlement. With a negotiated fixed fee for this service, couples have certainty as to their legal costs. Visit Lyn’s site and opt in for a complimentary e-book “Guide to Saving Money with a Divorce Property Settlement”.