How do I get my spouse out of the house?

Lee Rosen, retired divorce attorney and founder of the Rosen Law Firm, discusses how to talk to your spouse about leaving the house and what legal options you have if negotiations fail.

How Do I Get My Spouse Out of the House Transcript

How can you get your spouse out of the house? Boy, the house is an emotional situation. People get very attached to their houses, and they want to stay in them, and they’d like their spouse to get out when the marriage is on the rocks.

There are three legal mechanisms for getting somebody out of the house that involve the court system. We’ll talk about those three, and then let’s talk about what most people actually do as a practical matter. So what are the three legal options?

Number one: There’s a domestic violence action. If there’s domestic violence in your family, then the court can order a spouse out of the house.

Number two: There’s something called a divorce from bed and board. This is a really tough way to get somebody out of the house. You have to be able to prove drug or alcohol abuse or something called indignities, where somebody is cruel and nasty to you, and it rises to a pretty high level. That’s a way to get somebody out of the house, but it doesn’t work in most cases.

And finally, you can use child support as a way to get somebody out of the house. Possession of the house can be a form of child support.

Only the domestic violence act really works for getting somebody out of the house. The divorce from bed and board and the child support are much less effective ways to do it. And I only like to use those as a last resort.

So going to a court is a tough way to get somebody out of the house. In the absence of domestic violence, it’s really very, very challenging, and you just can’t count on it. So what do most people do in order to get their spouse out of the house?

Well, the reality is that most people negotiate. They begin talking about the larger deal, the separation agreement. They talk about shifting money between one spouse and the other. Sometimes, there’s literally a payment by one spouse to get the other spouse to go.

Moving is expensive. Setting up a new place to live, rent, deposits, movers, all of that can be very complicated and expensive. And so we will literally see one spouse write a check in order to get the other spouse to go ahead and be out of the house and away.

Before you do anything about getting your spouse out of the house, you need to stop and take a minute, take a lot of minutes, and think about whether the house is something you really want. There’s so much emotion surrounding this decision that it can take on a life of its own.

I’ve seen so many people spend so much money fighting over a house that ultimately they didn’t even want to stay in. You’ve got to figure out if this is really something that you value, if this is really important. Think about whether this house is somewhere you can afford to stay after you’ve fought to keep it.

I’ve seen a lot of folks that will spend all sorts of time and money and energy to stay in the house, and six months or a year later, they realize, hey, this thing, this mortgage payment, these utilities are much more than I want to spend. And they end up putting the house on the market and moving somewhere else anyway.

So think carefully. Don’t jump because of the emotion. Don’t rush out, spend lots of money fighting over something that ultimately is not the right place for you.