Living Arrangements During a Divorce: Who Stays in the House?

This Week’s Blog by Lauren M. Healy

  • Connecticut law protects each party’s right to live in the martial home during a divorce.
  • You cannot deny your spouse continued use of the marital home without an agreement or Court order.
  • The Court has the authority to give exclusive use of the marital home to either party if warranted.
  • It usually does not harm your case if you voluntarily move out of the house.

Who Gets to Live in the Marital Home During a Divorce?

In Connecticut, both parties are entitled to live in the marital home during the divorce action, unless there is an agreement or Court order stipulating otherwise. If the parties cannot live together, but cannot agree on who should leave, the Court has the authority to order exclusive use of the family home to one party, regardless of how the property is titled. The decision of who lives in the house during the divorce may come down to two main factors: first, what is most practical for your family; and second, the family’s financial circumstances. Sometimes, divorcing couples opt for a “bird nesting” arrangement whereby the children stay in the marital home and the parents rotate in and out. One party leaves the marital home when it is the other party’s turn to reside there, and vice versa.

Can I Change the Locks on my House During the Divorce?

In Connecticut, there are automatic orders (Connecticut Practice Book §25-5) which provide that if you are living together with your spouse on the date that the divorce action is started, you may not deny him or her use of the residence. For this reason, it is always best to consult with an attorney prior to changing the locks on the marital home. 

Will it hurt my Case if I Move out of the Marital Home? 

Divorce can be a contentious, emotional time for families. You may want to live separately but are afraid that you will be accused of abandoning your family or you may be concerned that it will hurt your divorce case in some other way.

Under most circumstances, it does not hurt your divorce case to voluntarily move out of the marital home—specifically, if it is done in order to alleviate stress or tension within the home, especially when there are minor children involved.  In fact, Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-83 provide that if one of parent leaves the family home voluntarily during the case and leaving is in the best interests of the child, the Court may consider that fact in making or modifying custody orders.

How Do I Get a Court Order for Exclusive Occupancy?

If you believe that your circumstances warrant exclusive use of your marital residence, you can file a Motion for Exclusive Possession with the Court to request an order which prevents your spouse from living in the home during the divorce.  This type of Motion is typically only filed in extreme circumstances.

The attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC are experienced in securing exclusive possession for our clients, defending against such claims, and in the alternative, helping to devise living arrangements during the divorce that will meet our clients’ specific needs.