You have reached one of the more challenging stages of divorce — that moment when you realize that you will have to leave your home, permanently. This move may be the result of a court mandated decision; the result of successfully negotiating your custody agreement, or it may simply be due to the fact that you and your spouse have reached the “tipping point” and realize that you can no longer live under the same roof. You may experience extreme feelings of sadness, as your home may have been a place that you inhabited with your family for a large portion of your marriage, and there may be many memories along with future plans that seem to be disappearing.
Many of us crave stability and separation is never easy, but if you do not adequately prepare for the inevitability of a move you may allow the emotions to cloud your judgment and decision-making. I encourage my clients to be SMART about their move to a new home during their divorce so they can secure the best outcome, given their circumstances.
Security: If you are a working parent, providing a home where your children are safe will be the greatest gift you can give yourself — peace of mind. While you may have a desire to isolate yourself, if you have to move due to your divorce, it is important to surround yourself with a community with which you can engage. Having a strong support system is one of the key drivers of recovery post-divorce. If you have received physical threats from your spouse, or if your spouse does not respect your boundaries, security will be even more of an issue. If you live in a city and your housing budget allows for it, consider a building with a part-time doorman who can announce visitors before anyone comes to your apartment.
Manageability: If you lived in a home with expenses that were affordable based on two incomes, and you now have to move, it is important to make sure that the maintenance costs required for your new home can be covered by your income or your spousal support. Did you have a lawn or a pool that required weekly or bi-weekly maintenance? You may have to let some of those amenities go by the wayside when you are transitioning to a new home in the midst of a divorce. If you have teenagers who are involved in sports, or have a very active lifestyle, you may have your hands full as a family keeping up with high-frequency household chores such as laundry, and house cleaning. As a single parent, when you have to take on the additional responsibility of joint custody, work, and other life commitments, it is important that your home be your oasis and not an additional source of stress.
Accessibility: Perhaps your previous home was located within walking distance to school or was a close commute to your job. As you explore your options, it is important to remember that, “proximity supports the family.” Was your home near your in-laws who were very accommodating with school drop off/pick up or pet sitting? If you have to move, keep in mind the real level of accessibility. While you may find a beautiful home or apartment that meets all your needs, will it be so beautiful if it takes 45 minutes for your children to commute to school, or for you to commute to work? Will the distance between your home and your spouse’s home be that great that you will have to agree upon a drop off location in between the two homes? Consider the physical impact your move will have on your children, and on your ability to adhere to the joint custody agreement you currently have in place.
Reality: Make sure your decision is grounded in economic reality. One of the hardest adjustments to accept is the change in lifestyle that a divorce can create. If you decide to change homes in the midst of your divorce, it is important to explore the impact that a decline in your financial position may cause. If you rent or purchase a comparably priced home you may be tying up your money in an asset that you may not be able to maintain, or you may not be able to recoup your investment when it is time to sell. In addition, if you do decide to make changes to your home you may have to consider the extra costs of repairs, alarm systems, cameras, or additional lighting for a home that does not meet your safety needs. Give some thought to your ability to maintain your home purchase or rental in the event of a market downturn, a job loss, or a lower financial outcome than what you expected in your divorce.
Temporary: Sometimes this move is for the best because your children will no longer have to live in a home where their parents are in daily conflict. If you are feeling down, it is important to remember that old adage, “Home is where the heart is.” While this home may not be your dream location or even your final destination, it is the space you are in right now. Make it as personal and as beautiful as you can, based on your unique situation. You can begin to put the pieces back together as you rebuild your new life after divorce. If you take care of your home you really do take care of your heart, and the hearts of your children!
If you are contemplating divorce, or struggling with a high-conflict divorce procedure, let Tamara Harris, CEO of Tamara Harris LLC, be your partner as you navigate through each stage of your journey. As an impartial, experienced professional, Tamara will work directly with you to give you the best tools and strategies to manage the specific challenges and uncertainties of divorce. Serving as your Divorce Coach and advocate, she will help you see clearly during this time where emotions can often impede and derail your divorce procedure. While each member of your high-conflict divorce team – lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, and other experts – will be advising you, Tamara will help you to synthesize this information, think strategically about the options you have with clarity and purpose, and get your divorce across the finish line. Visit tamaraharris.com for more information, or contact Tamara Harris to discuss becoming a client. All inquires will be held in confidence.