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David Eddie's Damage Control

My cheating ex won't move out Add to ...

The question A few months ago my ex confessed that she was having affairs. I decided to end the relationship and started sleeping in my home office. Because I'm a student, and my ex was supporting me, I haven't the money to move out. My ex is seeing at least three men and recently asked if she could have them drop by for sex while I was studying at school. I refused and again asked her to leave. My ex is the one who had the affairs and she has the financial capacity to leave, yet she wants to stay because she feels an emotional attachment to the apartment. But not to me, apparently. I am claiming the moral high ground here as I was lied to and have always been honest to my ex. How do I get her to move out?

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The answer Whew, I'm getting such complex, fraught, nuanced, knotty (and occasionally naughty) questions lately. I love it.

My first step in this case was to contact Damage Control's old friend Eric Shapiro of the Toronto family law firm Skapinker & Shapiro and ask him if he had any thoughts (pro bono, natch) on whether you could legally compel her to move out.

Mr. Shapiro and I had a lengthy conversation, riddled with legal jargon. If he'd been charging me his regular fees, that conversation would probably have cost me about 600 bucks.

But I can boil it down for you: Legally, there's not much you can do.

Mr. Shapiro said that in very rare, extreme cases, a judge will order "exclusive possession" of a domicile, i.e. kick one member of the couple out, but really only if there's some abuse and/or children involved.

Usually the most a judge is likely to do is compel the couple to sell the house and split the proceeds.

Anyway, it probably wouldn't apply in your case, because a) it sounds like you rent, b) it's not clear whether you are married or have been together long enough to consider yourselves common-law.

Even if you are common-law, Mr. Shapiro said, odds are if you took the circumstances of your situation to court, the judge would say: "If you don't like it, leave." Pound gavel. "Next!"

Which kind of sucks, in my opinion. Let's set aside the question of "moral high ground" for the moment (complicated in your case by certain pecuniary peculiarities). It seems only fair that the party who ended the relationship through infidelity should be the one who has to move out.

"So," I said to Mr. Shapiro, "you're telling me that if my wife, Pam, cheated on me, and I filed for divorce, but she refused to move out, and proceeded to have a series of biker dudes and basketball players and rock musicians over for long, drawn-out lovemaking sessions, full of screams and periodic outbursts coming through the walls, I couldn't get some bailiffs to frogmarch her ass out of the house?"

He said it would be "legally difficult" at best, which, if I have come to understand how these lawyers talk, basically means "no."

Well, I think that's a gap in the law, I said (feeling a little hot under the collar imagining Pam with all these bikers and basketball players - right under my own roof). They should fix that! I could almost hear Mr. Shapiro shrug over the phone. The law, he said, especially family law, "can be a crude mechanism to deal with sensitive situations."

So basically, I'm sorry to say, you (and anyone out there in a similar situation) from a legal standpoint are pretty much SOL.

Now, back to the question of "moral high ground." It's true that, since she cheated on you, thus ending the relationship, you do have the high ground romantically.

Financially … not so much. To be honest, I did quite a bit of head-scratching as to why it is you would be able to afford to stay in your current apartment and pay rent, but not rent another. (Dear readers, I e-mailed the questioner for clarification on this aspect of his dilemma but never heard back.)

Cohabitation exists at the nexus of romance and real estate. You and your ex have not only an emotional (albeit fizzled) relationship, but a financial one as well.

So, I'm afraid, since you have the moral high ground in only one of these two areas, and no legal recourse, I'm forced to echo our imaginary judge and point out that your only two options are a) stay there and find yourself returning from school to the sight of some dude in his jockeys making a peanut butter sandwich in the kitchen - your kitchen, or b) remove yourself from this chamber of torture and humiliation post-haste.

Since option a) is clearly untenable over the long term, I am afraid b) is your only real choice.

Find a way to make money (part-time job, freelancing, whatever), put your possessions in a suitcase and hit the road. Financial independence, I think you'll find, will do wonders for your self-esteem.

Especially in your situation. Hanging on to an apartment where your ex is entertaining an endless parade of lovers because you can't afford to move out: that's not a good look for anyone.

Don't get me wrong. I feel your pain and agree the situation is rather unfair. But then life is unfair. Time to move out, and move on, son.

(Dave pounds gavel.) Next!

David Eddie is the author of Chump Change and Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad. Damage Control, the book, was released in March.

[-space-]I've made a huge mistake Have you created any damage that needs controlling? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com, and include your hometown and a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

 

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