This is the first in a series of short postings about common questions we hear.
The direct answer is usually, “It depends.”
Moving out of the house in Texas does not mean that you are giving up your legal rights to the house or an interest in the house. It does not mean that you are at fault for anything. It also does not mean that you have given up any claims to anything at the house.
What does it mean? All it really means is that someone moved out of the house. There are many possible legitimate reasons for moving out. Among other reasons, it may mean that:
- you fear for your safety or the safety of other family members.
- you are better able than your spouse to obtain new housing.
- you and your spouse have reached a mature, mutually beneficial agreement to separate.
- you have no interest in living in that residence.
- the house belongs to your spouse or someone else and you knew you would be moving sometime soon anyway.
- another residence may be more convenient for your work, family or other obligations.
- you can better afford another residence.
- you prefer to maintain a smaller residence.
- you want to live in a better neighborhood.
- you don't care about keeping the furniture and furnishings.
- you just don't want to stay in the same house with your spouse until the Court rules on it.
Why might you want to stay in the house? Again, there are many possible reasons, including, among others:
- you don't want the work of packing and moving.
- you want to keep the kids in the same school.
- the house was yours prior to the marriage, or you inherited the house.
- the house is in a great location for your job, family or other obligations.
- you can't afford what it would cost to live comparably elsewhere.
- it wouldn't cost less to live anywhere else.
- you need to stay in a residence of this size.
- your spouse can better afford the move.
- the kids' friends and activities are all nearby.
- your want to keep the majority of the furniture and furnishings.
If you decide to move out, what should you do? Depending on the time available and the circumstances, you should consider the following:
- Pack carefully and get all of the belongings you will want and need. Don't expect to be able to go back later and get things, no matter how well you and your spouse get along at the time of the move.
- Document the condition of the house and contents as you move out. Take pictures and/or videos. Have a witness, if possible.
- Make an inventory of what you remove. Make notes about what you are leaving.
- Have several helpers, if possible, so the move can be done quickly.
- Take a reasonable amount of dishes, pots, pans, flatware, towels, sheets, and other everyday items. It costs to replace them. The same is true for furniture.
- Treat your spouse (and yourself) reasonably as you divide things up for the move.
- If possible, make arrangements to copy and divide pictures and other family things.
- Don't damage things as you move out.
Of course, if you are moving out quickly for safety reasons, do your best, but safety must be the most important consideration. You can call a police officer or Constable to supervise, if there is a threat of violence, but you should plan ahead to do that.
There are many possible reasons for moving out or wanting to stay in the house. Think carefully about your situation, both short-term and long-term. Try to be as cooperative as possible with your spouse, but most importantly, protect the safety of you and your family.