Your home is your anchor, the place you return after work to be with your family, to unwind, and to rest. Or maybe it’s not that at all. If your relationship with your spouse has gone cold – worse, if home is a hostile and toxic environment – home is the last place you want to be.
Yet it’s still your home.
What do you do in this situation? If you’re contemplating divorce (or you’re already going through it), you may feel that leaving home will have a negative impact on your case, that you will effectively forfeit your right to the home and everything in it, from the things you own to your children. The short answer is no – leaving home doesn’t forfeit your rights in family law.
But should you actually start packing your things and leave?
This depends on (1) whether it’s safe for you to be at home and (2) whether both you and your spouse have the financial resources you need to support yourselves through the divorce.
Domestic Violence and Abuse
If you’re facing domestic violence or abuse, getting away from it is necessary.
Too many spouses and partners suffer abuse. Per the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 10 million people are physically abused by a partner every year and 20,000 calls go out to domestic violence hotlines every day. In Florida in 2013, the police received more than 108,000 reports on domestic violence. And this doesn’t count domestic violence that went unreported.
The NCADC provides a list of domestic violence programs in Florida, organized by congressional district, and a hotline you can call at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). The 22nd Congressional District in South Florida, for example, offers both the AVDA in Delray Beach and the YWCA of Palm Beach. Statewide, Florida has roughly 40 programs that offer temporary shelter and support to victims of domestic violence.
Getting away from domestic violence takes priority. But temporary shelter and support, as vital and necessary as it is, may not be enough to get you through divorce from a financial perspective.
The average divorce takes at least a few months to resolve. From start to finish, it’s not unusual for a “contested” divorce to take a year or longer, because the parties must come to terms (and may have significant trouble doing so) on major issues like child custody, spousal support (alimony), and the division of assets and property like retirement accounts and the marital home.
Fortunately, the law provides a way for you to support yourself if you must leave your home during the divorce.
Temporary Court Order
This is especially good for those who have little to no control over household finances – or who worry they may lose control over their access to money as the relationship sours and heads toward divorce.
In general, there are two kinds of “temporary relief,” issued in both emergency and non-emergency settings. Domestic violence may well qualify for ex-parte emergency relief, in which an abuse victim (one who must leave the home for safety reasons) asks the judge for an order to the alleged perpetrator to stop and for no contact. This typically includes an order not to withhold financial resources. You may also ask the judge for access to financial resources in non-emergency settings, but this depends on the facts and circumstances of your case.
Domestic violence or no, a temporary order may be what you need to facilitate leaving your home during the divorce, if that’s what you’ve decided must happen.