In Alabama, both spouses have an equal right to occupy the marital home. The dwelling a married couple lives in together while married is called the marital home. No matter whose name is on the deed or whose salary pays more or all of the bills, both spouses have an equal right to the marital home. This means that even if you are in the process of getting a divorce in Alabama and one spouse moves some of their stuff to another dwelling, you should not change the locks until the divorce is finalized and the judgment is rendered on who gets what. Likewise, you cannot bar them from the home by other means or kick them out of the home. They should still be able to get in their house or even change the locks on you the next week. This can cause an escalation, since both parties have an equal right to the home until the judge decides otherwise.
The biggest exception to this rule is if you get a court order removing one spouse from the home. This is typically only done in cases of abuse. Whether the abuse is toward the spouse or to children living in the home, a judge can issue a temporary restraining order to prevent the alleged abuser from approaching their spouse or children and bar them from the marital home until a hearing can take place. Sometimes a judge will hear an emergency case very quickly, but any decision from that will be temporary until a full hearing with notice can be scheduled for a more permanent decision.
If you or your spouse have already filed for divorce and your spouse moves out, you could petition the court to grant you exclusive possession of the home and cite their abandonment of the home as a reason why you would like exclusive possession. If the court grants your request, it will only be valid while the divorce process is taking place. When the judge signs your divorce decree, he or she will also make a judgment regarding who gets to keep the marital home. If you get to keep the house, but your spouse contributed to things like the mortgage or renovations, you could be responsible for paying them back for some or all of their contributions toward the home while you were married.
Living in the same home with your spouse during the divorce process can be uncomfortable, but you need to discuss any changes to your living situation with your divorce attorney before moving out. If you are able to continue to also pay for an apartment or other home, it could give the court the impression you have more resources at your disposal than perhaps you are letting on to. Moving out could also give the court the impression you are not as interested in keeping the home as the spouse who stayed. While it is understandable to want to move on and get started on the next phase of your life, unless there is abuse taking place, it can be best in many cases to stay in the home until after the divorce is finalized. However, each case is different with a lot of variables influencing what is most appropriate. It is best to reach out to your local divorce lawyer with your specific situation so he or she can give you advice tailored for your situation.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on who gets to live in the house during or after the divorce, you will need to file a contested divorce. Contested divorces can cost thousands of dollars and take months or even years to reach a settlement. An uncontested divorce is a divorce where both couples agree from the outset about how to divide things like their home and other property. This is the quickest and cheapest way to get a divorce.
Attorney Steven A. Harris regularly blogs in the areas of family law, bankruptcy, and real estate closings on this website. He is always available in any of the firm’s offices or by phone anytime for a consultation. Mr. Harris tries to provide informative information to the public in easily digestible formats. Hopefully you enjoyed this article and feel free to supply any feedback. We appreciate our readers and love to hear from you!