CanI change the locks to my house if my wife has moved out?

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CanI change the locks to my house if my wife has moved out?

I am in the middle of a divorce. She moved out and took all of her stuff. I own the house and have before the marriage. Her name is not on anything. Can I change the locks to make sure she stays out. I do not trust her.

Asked on November 10, 2010 under Family Law, New York

Answers:

Darren Shapiro / Law and Mediation Office of Darren M. Shapiro

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

A court order of course if always the safest way to go in order to avoid any claim of illegal lockout.  If she gives you specific written confirmation that she has moved out of the house then you would probably be safe but the only way to be sure is to get it declared in court.  This could be done by a stipulation in the divorce.  It sounds like the residence is your separate property.  She can always try to claim that she is entitled to distribution on any increase in value of the house that she is responsible for through her efforts.  A common phrase for that increase in value would be her "sweat equity".  I am a matrimonial and family law attorney.  Give me a call if you would like to discuss the situation. It would be my pleasure to speak with you about it.  Darren M. Shapiro, Esq. 516-333-6555 www.NYAttorneyDivorce.com

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

No you cannot change the locks or attempt ot keep her from entering in anyway.  If this home has been your marital residence, you cannot prohibit your wife from entering or otherwise have her removed without a court order.  This is true no matter whose name is on the title to the house (you could ask for immediate judicial relief if she has put you or another legal occupant of the residence in fear for their safety).    

Note:  This does not mean that she will automatically have equity rights to the house. She may or may not have such  rights. This will be addressed has part of your property settlement. 


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