Can I Change the Locks on the House During a Houston Divorce?

At some time, in almost any divorce, the question of whether you can change the locks to the house comes up.  Most of the time, the house is considered community property.  That means the house is owned both by you and your spouse.

When one spouse leaves the house there are some people who feel that they have the right to change the locks. Unfortunately, while changing the locks may calm your anger, or be something that you think can be used against your spouse, the simple changing of the locks cannot be used to prevent your spouse from accessing the house.

In fact, if you change the locks, and your spouse breaks the door or a window to get inside the house, do not expect your spouse to be arrested. You may find yourself calling 911 if your spouse breaks in, but, without any physical threat or harm, your spouse is well within their rights to enter their house, even though you have changed the locks.

When is Changing the Locks on Your Home a Bad Idea During Divorce Proceedings?

Because your soon-to-be-ex-spouse still has the right to enter the community property home, changing the locks is not always the best idea.

Changing the locks before a divorce is final, and the property division is agreed upon, will likely lead to:

  • Increased anger and animosity between you and your spouse
  • Unexpected (and unnecessary) repair bills
  • Facts that can be used against you when you are questioned as to the division of assets

When is Changing the Locks on Your Home a Good Idea During Divorce Proceedings?

There are times when changing the locks on your home can be a necessary requirement during a Houston divorce.  If your spouse has been physically abusive to you, your children, or has threatened to be, you can seek a protective order barring your spouse from the house.  If you receive a protective order, one way of ensuring your spouse does not violate it would be to change the locks.  If your spouse would then attempt to break into the house, they would be in violation of the protective order and the police can assist.

You can also petition the Court for exclusive possession of the house, which, if granted, would allow you to bar your spouse from entering.

Does Leave the House Before the Divorce is Final Affect My Rights to the Property?

Contrary to what some may believe, whether a spouse stays in the house, or moves out, does not affect their rights in determining how the marriage’s property will be divided.

The one issue where the fact of living in the house vs. out of the house may arise is in the determination of custody decisions. A court could look at the living arrangements of the spouses in determining custody.

Changing the locks is not a way for you to receive an advantage in the custody decision, and, in fact, could possibly be used against you if you attempt to do so.

The lawyers at Stepp and Sullivan are here to help you with any family legal issues you have.

If we can answer any questions you have, or if you need additional information, we are here for you.

We work one-on-one with our clients to focus on the outcomes that are most important to you.

Contact Our Houston Family Law Attorneys at Stepp & Sullivan For a Free Consultation

Contact our Houston family law attorneys at Stepp & Sullivan to evaluate your unique divorce requirements today, so you are fully aware of your rights and do not do anything that may be used against you when it is time to go back to court. At Stepp & Sullivan, we make it personal. Powerful.

 

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