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Rhode Island Divorce Tip: Leaving Your House Will it Hurt You?

Generally speaking I've noticed in my Rhode Island Divorce practice that many men have a the same frequent question.

Will it hurt me with the court if I leave my house?

This question usually comes at a point when the marriage relationship for the Rhode Island couple has broken down to the point where one or both parties believe it is better for them to live separately than together due to the hostility, anger, hurt, need for space, or the effect it is causing on the children.

Most of the men who have been my clients believed or believe that leaving the house will hurt their financial interest in the house or any chance of getting the house in a settlement.   This does not necessarily follow though.

If you are headed for divorce, the Rhode Island family court judge will be dealing with the assets that you and your spouse have as well as your debts and your conduct (among other things).  Perhaps the most significant aspect the court justice will look at is your conduct after leaving the house.

The rationale is that the house is an asset and it needs to be preserved.  If you leave the house and it has an outstanding mortgage, taxes and insurances that need to be paid on it and you continue to pay your share of those "carrying costs" for the upkeep of the value of that asset, then it is likely that leaving the house will not hurt your financial investment in the house.

However, if you were to leave the house, stop contributing to the house entirely and then file for divorce a year later without contributing, then most Rhode Island family court judges would probably agree that some adjustment needs to be made to your share of any equity (or debt) that results from the house because you shirked your responsibilities with respect to the marital assets.

Don't expect their to be any concern or consideration for any living expenses that you might have needed in order to survive.  That is not an aspect within the divorce proceeding that the court needs to consider or account for.  Though it may well be within the discretion of the family court judges in Rhode Island to consider your expenses, if they want to. . . . I have yet to see a judge consider it.

Why?  The judge's concerned with the marital relationship.  The living expenses of the spouse that left the house are not part of the "marital relationship", rather that is something you have voluntarily undertaken.  If you can't handle your living expenses and continue your contribution to the marital assets such as your house, then there are consequences to such financial shortfalls both temporarily and in the long term depending upon if your divorce is resolved or goes to trial.

Authored by:

Christopher A. Pearsall, Esquire
571 Pontiac Avenue
Cranston, RI  02910
Phone:  (401) 354-2369

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