Changing the Locks on a Marital Home Following Separation? Is this possible? It is one of the most common questions we are asked in the early stages of separation. However, is it actually appropriate? It is important that you understand what you can and can’t do before you take any action.
Changing the locks on a jointly owned property
Following separation, one spouse/co-owner may vacate a marital home. Leaving the other to occupy the property whilst trying to negotiate a financial settlement.
In these circumstances, it is often tempting to change the locks to prevent the other returning to the property. However you should think twice before taking any steps in this respect.
Where a property is owned in joint names, both owners (i.e. a husband and wife or cohabitants) have a right to enter the property (unless there is a Court Order in place restricting access).
Therefore, you should not change the locks without the other owner’s consent.
If one owner changes the locks to stop the other entering the property, the excluded owner can request a key for the new lock. Or could change the locks themselves to enable them to re-enter the property. However an excluded owner should exercise caution and seek advice from a family law specialist, before taking any steps in this respect.
It is important you are aware that it is a criminal offence to use or threaten violence (this may be against the other person or the property) to gain access to your own property. (for example, if the other owner is in the property and asking you to leave)
Changing the locks on a property held in one person’s sole name
Where a property is held in one person’s sole name, but it has been the family home, the other spouse has a right not to be evicted or excluded, as a result of the marriage.
However, if the property is held in your sole name and the non-owning spouse has left the property, you may be able to change the locks without their consent. A non-owning spouse should seek permission (either by agreement or with the permission of the Court) before they can return to the property.
It is far better to try to agree the position in respect of the property, rather than involving the Court.
What if there has been domestic violence or threatening behaviour?
If you have experienced domestic violence or threatening behaviour from your spouse/ partner, who also jointly owns the property, you may be able to apply to the Court for an Occupation Order.
An Occupation Order is an Order which can regulate the occupation of the family home or restrict a person returning to the property.
However, there is certain criteria, which must be met to enable you to apply for an Occupation Order. Therefore, it is important that you meet with an experienced family lawyer to discuss matters and consider your options.
In the majority of cases, it is preferable to try to resolve these issues by agreement and without Court proceedings.
In view of the fact all of our circumstances are different, it is always important to speak to a family law specialist to discuss your situation and consider the options that apply to you.
At Hart Reade, all of our family law solicitors are members of Resolution, which means we are committed to resolving matters by agreement and in a non-confrontational manner.
We can provide you with a wealth of information, advice and support to assist you during what can be a difficult time. If you wish to speak to any of the family law team, please call us on 01323 727321.
Alternatively, please complete the contact form below.
Please note that this article does not constitute legal advice. You should always speak to a legal professional to discuss your circumstances and consider your options. Article about Changing the Locks on a Marital Home Following Separation