Dude, you just have to go
February 3, 2014 9:19 AM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend: How do you get your abusive husband to leave your house after you have filed for divorce?

My friend is divorcing her abusive spouse but he won't accept it and he won't leave. He is so far in denial that he thinks she had the divorce papers served on him just to hurt him and now that that's done she's ready to reconcile with him. His behavior is getting more bizarre by the day and includes hours long bouts of shouting and ranting that ranges from "it's all your fault" to "I'll do anything if you'll stay". He keeps her up all night when she has to go to work in the morning. He is starting to do this in front of the children now and just simply can't stay in the house any longer.

Meanwhile, my friend works and pays 90% of the bills and has for the last 5-6 years. They are both on the mortgage but only she pays the payment. They have a lot of equity and it's not something she can just walk away from (he says "you can't sell this house, it's mine!").

Here are my questions:
1. Will the police have to be involved to get him out? If so, how does that work and do you know of anyone who has had to go through this process?
2. Is there any other way to get him out of the house? Since the divorce papers have been served already, the locks on the house can't be changed at this point.
3. Have you had any other experience dealing with someone like this in a situation like this? He is acting irrationally and just won't understand that the marriage is over.

She does have a lawyer but is interested in a broader range of advice and experience.
posted by dawkins_7 to Human Relations (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The premise of this question is wrong. The house is not your friend's house, regardless of if she pays 90% of the bills or if she makes the payment. The house is their house and the husband has equal claim to it as she does. Unless leaving the house is something that can be negotiated (not forced) as part of the divorce process, your friend needs to be looking at finding a place for her to live in rather than trying to stay in the house.
posted by saeculorum at 9:22 AM on February 3 [17 favorites]

Dude, abusive men with increasingly bizarre behavior who won't accept that the marriage is over sometimes kill their wives and families. Not sure what you're looking for here -- the magic combination of words to make him see it her way and quietly leave? Legal advice is precisely what she needs here, not personal anecdotes from the internet. If she needs advice and support beyond that, tell her about the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:24 AM on February 3 [40 favorites]

A very close friend of mine just went through this. The "right" answer is gonna vary based on lawyer's advice and jurisdiction, but what my friend wound up doing was leaving while her husband was away on a business trip. It is very, very difficult to get a partner who is not PHYSICALLY abusive out of the house... it's unfair and shitty, but it's how it works in most places. She's gotta level with her lawyer: "this situation is scary and untenable and I need it over ASAP in a way that won't jeopardize my case" - and listen to the lawyer's advice.
posted by julthumbscrew at 9:26 AM on February 3 [11 favorites]

This is 100% lawyer territory. Like saeculorum says, it doesn't matter than she pays for 90% of it. If both their names are on it, they both have an equal claim. Stuff like who gets to keep the house and the division of other marital assets usually needs to be done with lawyer(s).

And yes, she should just leave and find someplace safe to live until this is resolved. This sounds like an awful situation that has the potential to get even more awful.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:26 AM on February 3 [7 favorites]

It can be a volitile situation and your friend needs her lawyers advice and council to best navigate this difficult situation.

It may be that the safest thing to do is to move and not tell him where she is living, especially if he is abusive and violent. Perhaps she can stay with friends or family.

It really depends on the state/jurisdiction. If one spouse leaves during a divorce, they may forfeit their portion of the home or give up significant leverage. Think "The War of the Roses."

Either way, it all has to go through the lawyer, and sometimes we have to eat some shit, if one person is unstabile and not acting as an adult in the situation.

It will suck, but folks will stay alive.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:27 AM on February 3 [3 favorites]

My heart goes out to your friend. Divorces can be very difficult when one of the parties doesn't want to cooperate. Eventually she will get a divorce decree that will say who gets to stay and who must leave, but until then it's his house as much as it is hers. Some states provide formal separation orders, so if she lives in one of those states she might be able to move more quickly. But in the short run, she should just leave, as inconvenient as that will be. At least it will make it more clear to her husband that she really means it. Even then, it's not a step she should take without legal advice.
posted by ubiquity at 9:29 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]

If he can be credibly charged with an actual crime of domestic violence or stalking/harassment against her or another occupant of the house (such as children) she may be able to leverage that to obtain a restraining order barring him from the house, depending on your home jurisdiction.

Assuming this is in a good-sized city in the US, your local police department should have a dedicated domestic violence detective squad. Find their contact info and call one of them directly for information in this regard. They may be reluctant to give explicit directions but should be able to tell you under which circumstances they will remove a homeowner from his own home, and for how long that removal will be enforceable.

Otherwise if he's on the mortgage papers and on the title for the house he's right in that it's his home. The question of who gets possession of the house after the divorce is one for the court to hash out. If keeping the house permanently is one of your friends objectives she should consult with her lawyer about how to accomplish that.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 9:31 AM on February 3 [4 favorites]

As a followup - she does not make or have enough money to both keep the mortgage current and rent a new place for her and the kids. He's not working enough to afford the payment, let alone utilities.
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:32 AM on February 3

Money is not the thing your friend should be worrying about. She needs to find a lawyer and get proper legal advice for the jurisdiction in which she lives. Divorce can be expensive, plain and simple, especially when it's contested.

DO NOT TELL HER TO CALL THE COPS WITH A FALSE REPORT. That could get her into deeper trouble.
posted by ambrosia at 9:38 AM on February 3 [14 favorites]

This situation here is why we have police and courts. She needs to go back to her lawyer and tell him or her what is going on and follow the lawyer's advice.
posted by Etrigan at 9:40 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]

I'm just going to put this link here and note that it contains some phone numbers and documents that your friend may find useful as she assesses her situation.

The support groups will help her gather the resolve to keep herself safe.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 9:42 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]

I hope your friend is not intending to represent himself/herself in this matter. These are questions for a lawyer. Get one forthwith.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:42 AM on February 3 [2 favorites]

As a followup - she does not make or have enough money to both keep the mortgage current and rent a new place for her and the kids

Again, she MUST see her lawyer to find out what her options are.

One option is that she can move out with the kids into an apartment and default on the mortgage. Of course without a custody agreement in place, her husband has just as much right to the children as she has. So there is still danger.

Your friend needs to discuss her options with her lawyer AND with a domestic abuse hotline.

Money is the LEAST of her worries right now.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:43 AM on February 3 [5 favorites]

Btw there is life after foreclosure. Easier to get a rental now, I would think.

Safety trumps money.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:44 AM on February 3 [8 favorites]

IANAL but everywhere I've lived it's very hard to kick someone out of their home, even if they don't own it. If he's a co-owner of the house it's impossible.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 9:50 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]

You are getting crappy advice here. She needs to consult her lawyer and see if an order for exclusive possession is possible, or if he meets the bar for a restraining order as it is commonly perceived in her jurisdiction. She also needs to understand what successfully removing him from the marital home means and all the implications; she may need to pay him interim maintenance or interim alimony and very likely cannot simply cut him off. Conversely, while everyone is saying "just go! flee!" she also needs to understand the implications of that choice as well.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:07 AM on February 3 [21 favorites]

There is some not so great advice above, as DarlingBri notes. She needs to see a lawyer and get an order for exclusive possession, if possible. She may also need a restraining order or peace bond (depending on where she lives). With the help of a lawyer, she may be able to set this up so that there are safeguards for her and her children's wellbeing. Everyone who is saying to flee needs to understand that doing so without proper safeguards can make it more risky for various reasons. She may also want to give the sergeant's desk a call and ask what help they could theoretically provide to someone who faced such a situation. I would also call the women's shelter or domestic violence centre and ask what supports they have in place.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:28 AM on February 3 [4 favorites]

She does have a lawyer but is interested in a broader range of advice and experience.

She really shouldn't be, because what worked well in one jurisdiction could be a terrible idea in another. The only advice here that is not crummy is the "call local professionals" advice.
posted by kmennie at 10:36 AM on February 3 [11 favorites]

I went through this. My abusive boyfriend owned the home, but the last time he hit me, I called the police and they arrested him. Then I went to court and got a restraining order removing him from the home. I also got a lawyer. We negotiated our breakup via the lawyer, but he never set another foot in the home or had any direct contact with me after that -- and I got the home, too.

The name of the game here is to get a lawyer, safety plan, and call the police at the next incident of abuse, including any threat.
posted by bearwife at 10:44 AM on February 3

Also: if there are kids involved, she should NOT, NOT, NOOOOOOT "just flee": that can and WILL utterly fuck up her divorce/custody case. Unilateral actions on the part of one parent are VERY strongly frowned upon in most areas. Again: lawyer, say it's untenable, follow advice.
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:45 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]

P.S. In my jurisdiction his behavior right now would qualify as harassment and warrant a restraining order. She needs to talk to her lawyer.
posted by bearwife at 10:46 AM on February 3 [2 favorites]

I can't tell you how much I lost when leaving my abuser, including my amazing rent-controlled apartment that had just been fully renovated that I loved more than any other home I had ever lived.

She needs to walk away. Call a women's shelter or a friend and get temporary housing. She will no longer be living in that house. Trust me - even if she got him to leave he would always know where she lived. She won't want to stay.
posted by sockermom at 12:13 PM on February 3 [4 favorites]

To follow up - yes she needs a lawyer. My comment was more about her emotional and physical safety long-term. She will probably not feel safe there even with a restraining order, even if the court goes in her favor with respect to ownership, etc. Walking away from the house will probably be her best bet in the long run emotionally speaking. She still needs a lawyer to work out details but I would encourage her to focus less on "how can I keep the house" and more on "how can I cut this guy out of my life forever and ever amen."
posted by sockermom at 12:16 PM on February 3

If she thinks a lawyer is expensive, wait until she sees how much not having one costs.
posted by disconnect at 1:27 PM on February 3 [7 favorites]

She must see a lawyer immediately and should make all decisions based on that advice unless she or the kids are in immediate danger, in which case she needs to run. LAWYER. She could damage her ability to take various actions if she follows internet advice.
posted by quince at 1:33 PM on February 3 [2 favorites]

There will be a domestic/ family violence program in the area, call them. They can help contact a lawyer with the right expertise and affordability. She may have grounds for a restraining order. She may be able to get a separation agreement that would require him to leave the home.

They will, especially, be able to help her with a safety plan. She may very well be at serious risk, and her safety is far more important than money. She should document his behavior as it would be useful if she needs a restraining order.

His behavior is getting more bizarre by the day and includes hours long bouts of shouting and ranting that ranges from "it's all your fault" to "I'll do anything if you'll stay". He keeps her up all night when she has to go to work in the morning. He is starting to do this in front of the children now and just simply can't stay in the house any longer.
This is very worrisome, and she needs a safety plan right away.
posted by theora55 at 11:35 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]

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