Preparing to Divorce But Can’t Afford to Move? You’re Not Alone

Preparing to Divorce But Can’t Afford to Move? You’re Not AloneDeciding to divorce can be very stressful. Once you make this decision and inform your spouse, you will be faced with certain steps that you must take to begin the divorce process. One of these steps may be to physically separate. While moving out may sound like a simple solution, it actually can present a significant financial challenge. If this is the case for you, know that you are not alone. Many people find themselves experiencing situations where they are ready to leave their spouses, but they cannot afford to move out of their family homes just yet.

According to an article published by The Wall Street Journal, housing costs are so expensive right now that many divorced couples have no choice but to still live together. A lot of couples who are divorced or planning to divorce find this embarrassing, but they still “try to maintain civility for the kids and hold tight until they can afford to buy, rent, and furnish two homes.” With the high cost of living, inflation, and the expensive housing market, this can take a long time.

The Journal reported that mortgage rates are over seven percent, and the average home price is more expensive than ever. Some may think that their next best option is to find somewhere to rent, but the rent prices in Knoxville and the rest of Tennessee have gone up by over 80 percent.

Although it may seem like this problem only involves the individual who plans to move out, it can actually affect the spouse who plans to continue to live in the family home as well. The reason for this is because the spouse who plans to stay may be unable to afford the family house payments on their own. The decision could come down to selling the family home and both trying to find new places to reside, but that poses challenges, too. According to The Journal, “typically, couples sell the home and split the proceeds or one spouse refinances the mortgage and buys out the other spouse’s interest. But with average mortgage rates at 20-year highs, it can be harder to sell or refinance.” And so a  divorcing couple may make the simple decision to continue living under the same roof and splitting the expenses.

Do you have to move out to get a divorce in Knoxville?

No, you do not. Living in separate houses for at least two years is grounds for divorce, but living apart is not required for divorce.

What happens to the kids if one of us moves out?

It is important to know that Tennessee prefers that married parents seek joint custody of any child who is born into a marriage. Exceptions apply, of course, but the State wants both parents to be involved in their children’s lives (as long as that is in the children’s best interest). Whether you or your spouse moves out, there will need to be a plan in place for who the children will temporarily reside with. You and your spouse will need to work together to develop a parenting plan. If your spouse is not willing to cooperate, it is likely a good idea to request a temporary parenting plan from the Court until your trial date. Keep in mind that your spouse can also request a temporary parenting plan.

In Tennessee, the Court’s goal is typically to develop a custody arrangement in which both parents get 50/50 with the children. However, this does depend on the children’s best interests. There are several other factors that the Court will take into account when deciding custody and visitation, which includes:

  • The children’s relationship with each parent
  • Each parent’s willingness to allow or encourage a relationship between the children and their other parent
  • Each parent’s ability to provide clothing, food, medical care, education, and other necessities
  • Whether one parent has been the primary caregiver
  • The emotional ties formed between each parent and the children
  • Mental, physical, and moral state of each parent
  • Whether the children have experienced any physical or emotional abuse
  • Each parent’s career schedules
  • The preference of the children if they are 12 or older

Creative ways to survive your divorce if neither of you can move out

Most couples who are planning to divorce do not see living together as a long-term solution, but while they are in this situation, there are different things they can try to make this time less chaotic and more manageable. Here are two creative ways to survive your divorce if neither of you can move out right now:

  1. Reimagine the floorplan and maximize your individual space: Depending on how big your home is, you may be able to work with a professional or someone who has experience with reimagining floorplans. This may require some time and money, but it may be a lot cheaper than paying for a divorce. You and your spouse will go through your floor plan and establish which rooms belong to who, which staircases will be used by whom, and which pathways will be used to get to different locations in the home. You can even color code these areas to remind both of you about the boundaries you have set. This ensures that you both have your own individual spaces and rarely cross paths when living under the same roof.
  2. Take turns living in the family home during a certain period of time: One method that has been helping many parents who are planning to divorce is called “bird nesting.” This is when the children remain in the home, but the parents take turns residing in the home with them. While this does require managing two homes and may prove more expensive (even when splitting the costs of both homes), it can provide some stability for the children – and that might be the better choice for everyone, depending on your circumstances. When using this method, one parent may reside with the children in the family home from Monday to Thursday, and the other parent may reside with the children in the family home from Thursday to Monday. When it is not the parent’s turn to be in the family home, they will stay in the rented home.

A quick note about “free” accommodations

Let’s say one of you can move in with a friend or family member for free, so that you both continue to pay the mortgage but neither assumes additional costs for moving out. It sounds like an ideal situation, doesn’t it?

Maybe not. You’ll want to talk with your Knoxville divorce lawyer about it, because this situation may create challenges. For example, will this living situation be permanent? Do you have a set timeframe before you move out? If not, can you be kicked out at any time? Without some kind of formal agreement (even with a family member) this scenario may create an unsafe and unstable environment for the children. The same is true if you move into a home with folks who use or abuse drugs or alcohol or engage in acts of violence.

We point this out because in some cases, staying put for the duration of your divorce — even when inconvenient — may be what is best for your children and you.

At LaFevor & Slaughter, our Knoxville divorce attorneys are ready and prepared to help couples who want to divorce but feel that it is financially impossible. We know all divorces are painful and challenging. Please call our office or submit our contact form to learn how we will help you during these challenging times.