One of the questions we are asked at the first appointment with a client is “can I change the locks”.
After separation, it is common that one party stays in the matrimonial home. Either they ultimately want to keep it from any property settlement or they want/need to remain there until the house is sold.
The good reasons to change the locks is “I am scared of them returning”. Change the locks! Your personal safety is paramount.
The bad reasons to change the locks is to stop the other person from entering the residence to collect personal possessions. It is always best to arrange for these possessions to be collected from an agreed safe location. Unless of course, you have an objection to the items they are wanting to collect. Arranging a time and location to make an exchange is the best solution.
The frustrating reasons to change the locks “I think it will annoy them”. Frustrating negotiations is never the answer. Another frustrating reason is when parties are living separated under the one roof. Don’t change the locks to “lock them out”. If living separately under one roof is not working, lets discuss how best to move forward and negotiate who is to remain in the residence.
Who’s name is on the property can also change the answer.
- If the property is held solely in your name, then go ahead and change those locks. It is your rights over the property.
- In general, matrimonial property is held in joint names. Both are entitled to access the property. But when there are genuine concerns for safety. Your safety is the first concern! Change the locks.
- What if you are in rented housing? You must first obtain the consent of the landlord. And in doing so, you need to look into your options to remove your previous partner from the lease.
The court can make orders about who can occupy the family home and restraints on the other party from entering the property.
Our thoughts on changing the locks is that it is reasonable in many situations. To ensure you know what is best for you, obtain legal advice first.