Can an Ex-Spouse Change the Locks on Jointly Owned Property?

In high-conflict divorce cases, some ex-spouses may take malicious actions to disrupt or exclude the other spouse. This includes unexpectedly changing the locks or denying a person entry into a family home or jointly owned property. When this occurs, there are several steps a person could take to regain entry into their jointly owned home, but there are some situations in which an individual could be unable to regain entry.

Can my Ex-Spouse Change the Locks?

An ex-spouse is generally unable to deny the other party entry into jointly owned property. In many cases, an ex-spouse is legally allowed to enter and live in a jointly owned property unless forbidden by a court order. Whenever an individual has been unlawfully excluded from their home by an ex-spouse, they can attempt to regain entry into the home. This includes hiring a locksmith to gain entry into the property.

Exceptions to Jointly Owned Marital Property Laws

While in general it could be unlawful to change the locks or deny a person entry to jointly owned property, there are some situations in which it may be permissible. If an individual becomes the victim of domestic violence or threatening behavior by an ex-spouse, they may be able to file for an order of protection from a court. An order of protection, commonly referred to as a protective or stay away order, could bar an ex-spouse or other individual from living with or being within a close proximity to the other party. While a protective order is in place, an individual may be able to change the locks on a jointly owned home to exclude the violent or threatening ex-spouse.

Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney Today

Many individuals in high-conflict divorce cases run into unexpected challenges or experience difficulty navigating the divorce process. An experienced family law attorney from the Moskowitz Law Group, LLC could examine the specifics of your case and help you select the best path forward. To speak to one of our knowledgeable divorce lawyers, call today for a free consultation.

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