Many people come in for their first consultation and one of the questions that they have is whether they can leave the marital residence. They want to know if it is OK to leave or if they are abandoning the house. Under Ohio law you do not lose any property interest in your home by moving out of it. The home remains a marital asset, which will be divided in the divorce.
However, there are some considerations that need to be made before making the decision to move out.
First, if you have minor children it is important to discuss and agree upon a parenting time schedule with your spouse before moving out. It is very important for the children to have stability during this chaotic time, and to ensure that there's no confusion about where the children are going to be will minimize chaos or the need for expedited court orders regarding parenting time.
Second, it is important to discuss and agree upon the division of your personal property. Once you leave the house, you have no control over what happens to the property inside the house. If your spouse begins disposing of property, it becomes difficult for the court to value the property that has disappeared. You do not actually have to physically divide all of the property, but it is important to make a list and agree upon what property is coming with you and what property is staying with your spouse before moving out.
Third, it is important to consider whether you want to keep the house after the divorce. If there is an agreement as to which spouse is going to ultimately keep the home, then this is nothing to worry about. However, if you and your spouse both want the home, the court may give preference to the spouse living in the home. It is also important to discuss the division of expenses. Even if you move out of the marital residence, it is possible that you may be responsible for some of the bills associated with the marital residence. Discussing a plan with your spouse before you move out is ideal.
Lastly and maybe most importantly, you need to protect yourself. If your spouse is making threats about calling the police to make a false domestic violence claim, then you need to get out of the house as soon as possible. It will be much easier and a lot less stressful to go back and divide property or figure out a parenting schedule than to deal with a criminal or civil domestic violence charge.
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