How Do We Untie Our Legal Union?

Question:   

My wife does not work, but she lives at home and helps with the kids while using up the savings and running up large credit card bills. On top of all of that, she has been running around on me. We both have agreed that we just want to be single, with no ties to each other; however she wants to stay at the house to help with the kids. We would essentially like to be roommates.  How would you recommend we begin untying our legal union so that we are no longer responsible for each others bills, etc…?

 

Answer:

I do not practice in Alabama, therefore, you should consult an attorney licensed to practice in Alabama prior to making any decisions.  In most jurisdictions, you can choose to file for divorce or legal separation.  A legal separation is much the same as a divorce, the court makes orders relative to the children and property division.  However, in a legal separation, you are still married and depending on the laws in your State, your wife could continue to incur debt in your name.  Considering your situation, I would recommend a divorce in my jurisdiction; however, you should consult an attorney in your jurisdiction.

You and your wife can choose to reside in the same household during the divorce process, however, you should analyze whether or not you can truly just be roommates.  Would you both reside in the household at the same time?  Would you be responsible for all the bills?  Would you both spend time with the children together?  This will definitely take a long conversation between you and your spouse which details the ground rules for making the arrangement work. Considering your children are there to observe, there are guidelines to follow:  no violence, no drugs or alcohol abuse in the presence of the children, and no arguments concerning the divorce in the presence of the children. Additionally, you both should be sure not to bring significant others into the home as that would just breed even more confusion to the children.

In terms of residing together after the divorce, this is a bit more complicated.  Assets and debts are divided as of the date of divorce.  You could agree to change the title of the home so that you have an equal interest in the home after the divorce then you both would have a right to reside there.  However, that just lends itself to litigation after you two decide to part as one person will have to agree to sell the house or buy out the other person’s interests.  In addition, if one spouse leaves, he or she is still responsible for any mortgage payments owing on the home.  Also, considering your wife has shown that she is financially irresponsible, you may want to think twice before deciding to continue to be tied to her after the divorce is final.

I have some horror stories of couples who thought they could cohabitate during the divorce process so my recommendation is always “Don’t do it.”  However, if you both think that the arrangement can work you should contact a domestic litigation attorney in Alabama to analyze your situation and determine the best route for separating.

Erica Christian is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Wisconsin. She is a member of the Wisconsin Bar Association, the Family Law Section and the Children’s Law Section.

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