When Can I Change the Locks?

Posted on Apr 19, 2013 by Katie Carter

If you want to have your husband kicked out of the marital residence, you’re going to have to (1) get him to agree to leave, or (2) get a judge to order him to leave. Even though it’s tempting, you can’t force him to leave by changing the locks.

If you’re filing for divorce, one of the best ways to get him out of the marital home is by having a pendente lite hearing. “Pendente lite” is Latin for while the litigation is pending, and it is essentially a hearing that determines how temporary support will be awarded. The court can decide things like child support and spousal support, and it can also award one party or the other exclusive possession of the home.

Of course, an award of exclusive possession doesn’t mean that you have a greater ownership interest in the home. It just means that, at least while the litigation is pending, only one of you has a legal right to be physically present there.

The marital home will be one of the things that is divided between you at your trial or in your separation agreement. If the issue of exclusive possession of the home isn’t addressed at the pendente lite hearing, it will be addressed here. Either the two of you agree that one will buy out the other’s interest (and leave the property by a certain date), or you agree to sell the home and split the proceeds. If you can’t agree, the court will likely order that the house be sold and the proceeds split.

Simply put, you can’t act like you’ve got exclusive possession of the home until you and your husband agree to it, or until you have an order of the court officially granting it to you. Until that time, you can’t change the locks and prevent him from getting in to the home.