Can the locks be changed during my divorce?

During a divorce, peoples’ homes and properties can become a difficult subject to negotiate on. There is no easy answer when it comes to whether they should be sold or how they should be divided. That aside, whether or not you can change the locks is one definite point we can discuss in more certain detail.

Own your own home?

If you own the house you live in with your ex-partner and they are not noted on the Land Registry of the property you are within your rights to fit fresh locks. In other words, if the property is solely yours you will have full control. However, until the divorce is finalised, your ex can still acquire the right to live in the family home.

Even if you are not married your ex-partner can also stake their claim. The courts may decide your ex has a right to live in the property, subject to certain factors, for example, how long you have been together and if they have invested any money into the home.

Do you both jointly own the property?

If both your names are on the property Land Registry, you will both have a legal right to the home. Neither person can change the locks without the full consent from the other party. You both have the legal right to occupy the property, even if your ex leaves voluntarily; the locks are not allowed to be changed.

Usually, the easiest way forward is to decide who is going to reside in the property during divorce proceedings. Avoid any temptation to change the locks as you could find yourself facing a court application from your ex to gain entry, or they may attempt to try forcibly to re-enter the building.

Using reasonable force

Again, if your ex-partner jointly owns the home with you, they are legally entitled to use reasonable force to re-enter the property if they have been shut out. If they do cause any damage on re-entering they must pay for all of the remedial work.

How can I safe-guard against my ex entering the property?

If your ex-partner is showing signs of violence or intimidating behaviour which affects the welfare of you or your children, you can apply for a ‘court order injunction’ which bans them from being near or entering the home. You can also request the court to secure an ‘occupation order.’ This means your ex will be denied the right to enter or reside in the family property.

‘Occupation orders’ will only be issued if there is enough evidence that your ex-partner has previously mistreated you or any children. These occupation orders are there to protect ex-spouses and their families from possible domestic violence, threats, emotional abuse and theft.


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