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Can You Change the Locks if Your Spouse Leaves?

raleigh divorce attorneyDo You Know Your Rights to the Marital Home if Your Spouse Vacates?

Can you change the locks to your home if your spouse moves out of the marital home under North Carolina Divorce Law?

The simple answer is YES, under the right conditions.

In over 14 years as a Raleigh Divorce Lawyer I have answered this question for my clients more times than I count.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Did your spouse leave the marital home with the intent to not come back? If your husband or wife left the home in order to "move out," then you are now "SEPARATED" under North Carolina Divorce Law. No formal paperwork has to be signed for a marital separation to occur. So long as they indicated to you in some fashion that they are moving out (and preferably took most of their clothes and personal items), you can consider them to have vacated the marital home and are free to change the locks.
  2. What if they tell you its only a temporary separation? Well, this scenario can be a tough call. In many cases, one spouse will tell the other that they need to "get away" and "think" or have "some time alone." They may even call it a "trial separation." The key here is to pin them down.- Do they have an intention to return, and if so, when?
    - Did they get another residence such as an apartment or rental property?
    - Did they take all of their clothes and personal items?

    The best course of action under this scenario is to consult with an experienced North Carolina Divorce Attorney and seek advice. Your Divorce Lawyer can guide you and also create a paper trail through written communications that may allow you to have the locks changed with less risk of the spouse being able to return.

  3. What if your spouse does not communicate their intentions and just leaves? Here you really need the assistance and advice of your Divorce Lawyer. Determining whether or not someone has vacated the marital home initially requires some understanding of their "intent," which can be tough. Fortunately, intent can be derived in court from a persons actions. Taking almost all of ones clothes, signing a lease, refusing to communicate and other similar acts can allow a Divorce Judge to infer the intent to leave the marital home permanently.
  4. What else should you do if your spouse leaves? It may be in your best interest to send what divorce lawyers refer to as a "domestic trespass letter" forbidding the spouse to return to the marital home pursuant to N.C.G.S. 14-134.3. This statute makes it a class 1 misdemeanor for a spouse that has vacated the marital home to return without permission after they have been forbidden to return. You may also need to file a court action for "Divorce From Bed and Board" or other marital claims to protect and further your interests.

Consult with a Divorce Lawyer in Raleigh about Your Marital Home

In any event, if your spouse leaves the marital home you should seek the advice of an experienced North Carolina Divorce Lawyer immediately. They can guide you on these and other "judgment calls" and help you take the steps necessary to protect yourself, your assets and your family. Contact our Raleigh attorney's by calling 919-301-8843 or complete the contact form below.

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