Divorce, separation, and custody disputes are often tumultuous times. Anger and hurt feelings can make living together difficult and impractical. In some cases, it can go from difficult to impossible. Bad behavior toward the other parent or the children can make it necessary for the parties to no longer reside together. If the behavior rises to emotional or physical abuse, it is possible for the victim to apply for an Order for Protection to make sure the abuser cannot re-enter the home or come around the victim and the children. Another tool available during a divorce is called a “Dwelling Exclusion Order,” and can be used in similar situations or in cases where an Order for Protection is not warranted.
Minnesota statute 518.131 provides the authority for courts to enter temporary orders in a divorce. Temporary orders can provide for the temporary custody and support of the children, temporary spousal maintenance, or can “Award the temporary use and possession, exclusive or otherwise of the family home, furniture, household goods, automobiles, and other property of the parties.” This means that either party can bring a motion before the divorce court and ask that he or she be the only one allowed to use the marital residence while the divorce is pending, requiring the other spouse be excluded from the residence.
The court is often hesitant to grant such an order in just any case. For example, if the parties are able to reasonably coexist in the home, the court will likely not force one party to move out just because a division of the home and having separate residences is an inevitable outcome of the divorce. The court will examine if the parties’ relationship is so volatile that the atmosphere in the home is causing damage to the parties or, more importantly, their children. Another situation where an order like this may be appropriate is where the marital residence is a non-marital asset. If the spouse being asked to leave is not the one who owns the house as his or her non-marital asset and that same spouse has the financial ability to get separate housing, the court would be more likely to be sympathetic to a request for an order requiring that spouse to vacate the premises.