Changing Locks on the Marital Home During a Divorce and A Warning About Agreements
By Diana Knowles Dunlop
Florida Family Law Attorney
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION: Can I change the locks and security code to my house now that my spouse has move out? My spouse recently moved out of our marital home and has been living somewhere else for over two weeks. I am living in the marital home, which is titled in both our names. However, I want to feel secure in my house, so I would like to change the locks. When my spouse left, he/she took clothes, a laptop, some papers, and one of our vehicles. I plan to file for divorce, so I don’t want to do anything that will hurt me getting the most I can get. I would like the house. My spouse also takes our child with him overnights, and I don’t know where our child is because my spouse won’t give me the address.
ANSWER: You can always legally change the locks and the security code on your own house, unless there is a court order that forbids this. If your spouse has permanently moved out, meaning he/she has found another place to live, you can change the locks and security access code so you can have security and peace of mind. This is reasonable to do, and a family court judge would be unlikely to find fault with you doing that. However, even if your spouse has signed a lease and is living somewhere else, he/she still can legally break into the house or call a locksmith and have the locks changed back UNLESS a court order has been entered that forbids him/her from entering the house, or unless you have entered a formal, written agreement with your spouse as to this issue. It is important to hire an experienced family law attorney when a situation like this occurs, especially when a minor child or children are involved. SEE IMPORTANT FOLLOWING INFORMATION AS TO WRITTEN AND VERBAL AGREEMENTS:
WARNING: You should not enter into any agreement to resolve issues in your divorce or paternity action, whether verbal or written, unless the agreement has been prepared by an experienced family law attorney who represents YOUR individual legal rights and interests. Partial and/or temporary agreements can be useful in resolving issues “temporarily” (meaning before the final judgment of divorce is entered). Typical temporary issues that are often resolved are the temporary exclusive use and possession of the marital residence, exclusive use and possession of certain vehicles, visitation/contact schedules and child support. The best permanent (final) agreement should resolve all the issues in your divorce and not be done “piecemeal.” If you make a final agreement on an issue (such as who gets the marital home) before all issues are resolved, you can lose leverage in the negotiations of other issues.
Dunlop, Dunlop & Dunlop are experienced family law attorneys who can represent you and protect your legal interests and the best interests of your child or children. Call us at 407-628-4300 for a free consultation or contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our website is www.divorceorlando.net.