You have only to watch 12 minutes of just about any soap opera on the planet to know how it goes… They fight. She screams at him to get out. He throws a few shirts into a bag and walks out into the darkness, destined for some seedy motel where he will stare with hollow eyes at the small TV with poor reception while contemplating the ruin of his marriage. Back at home, his wife weeps broken heartedly on the couch, with only a box of tissues and a glass of wine for company. But wait! That’s not always real life…
Although the man skulking off with his tail between his legs is often portrayed in the Hollywood version of life as being the standard response to marital fights, some say it’s the worst possible response. Why? Because when a couple decide to end their marriage, a man who “moves out to stay with a friend while they figure this out” is actually setting himself up for trouble down the road. Or is he? There are a lot of myths surrounding “the man who moves out.” So let’s unpack this issue…
In the book The 10 stupidest mistakes men make when facing divorce: And how to avoid them, the mistake that makes it to the top of the list is this: moving out. The author, Joseph E. Cordell, is the founder of a law firm in St Louis, Missouri, that focuses on representing men in their divorces, and he has a thing or two to say about men’s rights during divorces. According to Cordell, while there are a number of stupid things men do when faced with divorce, moving out is by far the dumbest move you could possibly make. But is that true?
Most people just want a little space to think after a heated argument, or the heartbreaking discussion about whether or not to end a marriage.
Often it’s the husband who ends up in a hotel, or on a friend’s couch during the “divorce talks”. Usually this is because he is the one who feels obligated to go, even if the divorce was his wife’s idea. According to Cordell, however, the simple act of packing a bag and moving out, even if it’s only for a few days, can result in accusations of abandonment.
So what are the facts in Michigan? Brandy Thompson, an experienced family law attorney at The Kronzek Firm, says that while the term “abandonment” may be flung around, there is no legal theory in Michigan for abandonment of the home or children, as long as the father continues to see them regularly and provides for them. The simple act of leaving the home, in and of itself is not abandonment. Also, staying isn’t always the right choice. “There are sometimes good reasons to leave.” Thompson explains, “For example, avoiding a domestic dispute, which would likely have much more severe consequences. And also to avoid continuous arguing in front of minor children.”
According to Thompson, many states have abandonment statutes on the books, but Michigan doesn’t. This means that if a couple decides to separate during divorce talks, one spouse cannot later accuse the other of abandoning the family’s home and children. In Michigan, as long as a parent continues to make every attempt to maintain contact with their children after they have moved out, the court is not likely to deny them custody down the road. However, be aware that if you move out, you should never make an agreement with regard to parenting time that you can’t live with in the long term. If your spouse is refusing access to the children, it’s time to get to the court right away so you don’t establish a custodial environment with the other parent.
Join us next time as look at a few more myths about what men need to watch out for when deciding if they should move out, or stick around. However, until then, if you and your spouse have decided to get a divorce and you need help figuring where to go from here, come and talk to us. The experienced attorneys at the Kronzek Firm have spent decades assisting people in the mid-Michigan area through their divorces. We can help you too!