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Can I change the Locks during a Divorce?

by | May 19, 2023 | Divorce

So, picture this: you’re in the middle of a messy divorce, and your home has turned into a battlefield. Now, I know you might be tempted to change the locks to keep your soon-to-be-ex out, but hold your horses! Legally speaking, both of you have equal rights to live in the marital residence until the divorce is finalized.

That means no lock-changing just yet, or it can come back to bite you in the end. However, there’s hope. A court does have the power to grant one party “exclusive possession of the marital residence” while the divorce is ongoing. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get the house in the end, it’s more like winning a temporary eviction battle.

If you have kids and your ex is making your life a living nightmare under that same roof, the court is able to decide that it’s not in the best interest of the children to have you two playing house together. It is fairly likely that the home would  be granted to the primary caretaker.

However, if you’re child-free, things tend to get trickier. You’ll probably need to prove that your ex is acting egregiously to have a chance at exclusive possession. Awkward exchanges and dishes left in the sink probably won’t cut it. Most courts will require that you show real evidence that your ex is acting inappropriately. In a recent case, we saw exclusive possession go to a wife after she was able to show text messages where the husband was attempting to trade chores for sexual favors. You’ll probably need to show something on this level for the court to order your ex out.

When making their decision, the judge will also consider if the party being kicked out has the financial means to find another place. They won’t just toss your ex onto the streets with a “good luck” and a pat on the back. If your ex is broke, the court might decide it’s not fair to kick them out without a backup plan.

Now, let’s say your ex decided to pack their bags voluntarily and leave. Does that mean you can change the locks? Well, not so fast. The answer to that question depends on various factors.

How long have they been gone? If it’s been ages, then sure, the court might find it reasonable for you to change those locks. If it has only been a week, it may be a different story.

So, if you’re itching to evict your soon-to-be-ex, or if you’ve already been given the boot, it’s time to consult with Ruppert Law Firm LLC. We’ll help you navigate through the divorce madness and figure out the best course of action. And who knows, maybe one day you’ll look back at this chaotic period of your life and have a good laugh. Just keep the locks unchanged for now…