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Can I Change the Door Locks on the House after He moves Out?

July 1, 2018

When marriages fail, deciding on who will remain in the house becomes a heated issue. In many instances, the remaining spouse changes the house locks to keep off the other spouse. This is not right though. The act raises questions of when a spouse is permitted to change the locks on the doors to keep the other spouse from accessing the marital home.

Locking one spouse out during marriage failure may lead to domestic violence or even police intervention. This may worsen an already weak relationship between the parties. Therefore, if possible, there should be an agreement during a divorce process or separation to avoid cases of one spouse being locked out or one changing the locks of the matrimonial home.

During Divorce

When still married couples own properties obtained during their marriage jointly. During the divorce, the same is applicable irrespective of whose name is in the property. This means that either spouse has the right to the property. Therefore, they can change the locks on the door during the divorce to force their other spouse out.

The displaced spouse has the right to force him/her in without being charged. It is essential to note that, changing the locks to keep a spouse out is not wise because the act may escalate the negative emotions between the spouses and lead to more damages. Furthermore, the spouse who locks should have a valid reason for doing so hence the relationship will turn sourer.

During temporary court hearing of the divorce case, the court may determine that a certain spouse have a temporary use and possession of the marital home. With the court’s decision, the other spouse is not allowed into the house unless the other spouse is aware of it. In case the spouse displaced violates the order, he will be charged and fined or jailed.

Once the temporary possession and use of the marital home are allowed, the spouse is advised to change all the locks to keep the displaced party out. If the house has a security system, the codes must be replaced immediately. The provider should also be notified which of the spouse has/has no right to access the home and be given a copy of the court order. Where the house does not have a security system, get one to safeguard the home.

During Separation

Married people or people in a civil partnership should not change the door locks during separation. This is because the home either owned or rented acted as the matrimonial home while they were married. In such cases, none of the parties is allowed to change the locks. Both the parties have the right to be at home not unless one has obtained a court order restraining his/her partner from accessing the house.

If one party moves out voluntarily, still the other party is not allowed to change the locks until they reach an agreement on who should be left in the house. Further, the parties may decide that one moves out until there is a permanent solution in place.

In such a case, there should be mutual agreement on when the other party will be entering the home. If one party changes the lock without the consent of the other, the displaced partner will obtain a court order which may allow him/her to be given copies of the keys.

If after separation one partner is excluded from accessing the property, they should exercise caution because any action against the court order will land them in problems. Gaining access to the property violently is a criminal offence and is punishable by law.

If the party granted the right to possess the house feels threatened by the other party, it is advisable that he/she gets an occupation order. The order is meant to effectively remove the rights of the party to live in the property. The court will consider several factors before granting the occupation order. For example, they need to consider the harm the parties will suffer if the order is made or not.

Occupation orders usually set out who will be living the family home and the surrounding area. In a circumstance where there is likelihood risk of harm, the home is put under immediate protection. Parties who find themselves in such situations are advised to see a specialist.

Furthermore, they should consider solving the problems in an amicable way without heightening tensions and confrontations between them. They should employ other options like collaborative practice, mediation or arbitration in order to resolve their problems until they find a lasting solution to their problems.

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