My Spouse Moved Out of the House; Can I Change the Locks?

Your marriage hasn’t been good for a while.

You haven’t been happy, and you decided to tell your spouse that you want a divorce.

That was a difficult conversation, to say the least. At the end, though, your spouse decided to leave the house and get another place.

The problem now is your spouse keeps coming back to the house, coming in and taking random things for the new place.

Your spouse doesn’t live in the house any more, and you want this to stop.

Your fine communicating about the kids, but you want to be sure the house is safe so you don’t have to worry about coming home to your spouse rummaging around for something in your bedroom.

So, you ask yourself, “Can I change the locks?”

You think, “That should take care of the problem.”

Or will it?

There are a couple different ways to look at this: legal and practical.


Legally, can you change the locks to keep your spouse out of the house?

Yes, you legally can change the locks.

Of course, you’re still married, so your spouse has just as much of a right to be in the house (or apartment, or condo) as you do.

This means your spouse can get a locksmith to pick the lock and get back in. (This happens all the time.)

So, you can change the locks and not get in trouble legally, but that only works if your spouse is willing to take no for an answer. If he or she really wants to get back in the house, it will happen.

(Note: if you’re afraid of your spouse because you’ve been threatened, or you’ve been the victim of domestic violence, then changing the locks will do you no good. A protective order is the most effective method for keeping your spouse away from the house.)


Practically, should you change the locks?

Honestly, I usually answer this questions by telling my clients no.


Couple reasons:

  1. Changing the locks upsets judges when you go to file for divorce. Most of the time, it makes you appear controlling and petty, which doesn’t play well.
  2. It tends to escalate tensions between you and your spouse. People get more upset at each other after the locks are changed, which probably will make your divorce more difficult (i.e., longer, more contentious, and more costly).

Is it annoying and disconcerting that your spouse comes in to the house whenever?

Yes, it is, but the that annoyance is nothing compared the hell that is a contentious divorce.

Published On: July 31st, 2019Categories: Division of PropertyComments Off on My Spouse Moved Out of the House; Can I Change the Locks?
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About the Author: Marco Brown
Marco C. Brown was named Utah’s Outstanding Family Law Lawyer of the Year in 2015. He graduated with distinction from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2007 and is currently the managing partner of Brown Family Law, LLC.
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