Changing the locks to a previously shared house in the midst of a divorce can get pretty nasty. There isn’t a law that will forbid you to switch up the locks. However, while you may decide to do this, your spouse can also legally break in without being charged- bashing a window or knocking down the door is fair game. When two people are married, they have equal rights to all marital assets, including the home they purchase together. According to Reno divorce lawyer Gloria Petroni, a judge or mediator of the parties will make final decisions about assets like residency during a divorce. Until a hearing takes place in the divorce process that will determine property division, marital assets will remain shared, meaning you aren’t able to prevent your spouse from coming into the house.
Of course, there are circumstances, depending on your situation during a divorce, that may enable you retrieve rights of the property. This would then allow you to change the locks in your home and prevent your spouse from entering during a divorce.
If only your name is on the register of the title or tenancy agreement, it may be possible for you to change the locks during the time of a divorce and prevent your spouse from coming into the house. This would generally be the case if you owned a home prior to marriage, but it does differ by state. Additionally, you generally must provide a notice to leave and any threats or force of leave that a sole owner may attempt can be a criminal offense.
If you inherited a home before or during a marriage, you retain exclusive rights to the home in most states. Therefore, if you are going through a divorce, you may have legal rights to exclusively occupy the home. As mentioned above, most states will require you to provide a notice to your spouse, anywhere between 30-60 days.
You feel at risk
Those who feel their spouse could be dangerous will generally request a court order to obtain ownership rights. States will vary in what they deem to be dangerous. For example, some states will require there to be a domestic violence threat while other states may rule the friction between the couple is harmful to their well being. If there have been threats or actual intimidation or violence, you can order an Occupation Order which would prevent the person from accessing the property.
In the end, it isn't necessarily about changing the locks on your house. While this sends a pretty clear message to the other spouse, it is doubtful that he or she will peacfully respond or abide by your wishes. If you do not want your spouse to have permission in the house, talk to a lawyer about exclusive rights to a home. Depending on your case as well as your location, a judge may grant you sole property rights.