Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “How will the judge divide our property?”
It is not uncommon for spouses whose marriage is on the rocks to have disagreements about who should stay in the house and who should leave. However, some spouses choose to change locks or otherwise lock their spouse out of the house.
In North Carolina, it is illegal to just lock your spouse out of your house unless you have legitimate grounds to do so. In fact, you cannot keep your spouse out of your house even if you owned the house before the marriage.
Often, the only way to legally lock your spouse out of the house may be to obtain a domestic violence protective order (DVPO) if there are valid grounds to do so.
If you want to keep your spouse out of the house, consult with a Charlotte family law and divorce attorney to discuss your particular situation and understand your options.
Signing a Separation Agreement to Lock Your Spouse Out of the House
If you are considering ending your marriage and want your spouse to leave the house, you should contact a lawyer to help you and your spouse reach a separation agreement. The legally enforceable agreement will clearly outline how you and your spouse want to divide assets and who should stay in the house during the divorce case.
Once you and your spouse separate, the spouse who remains in the marital house can legally change the locks and prohibit the other spouse from returning.
What to Do if My Spouse Refuses to Move Out
If you and your spouse cannot reach a separation agreement and your spouse refuses to move out, you have the following options:
- Seek a divorce from bed and board;
- Seek injunctive relief pursuant to C. Gen. Stat. § 50-20(i) to prevent the disappearance, waste, damage, or conversion of marital property;
- Seek a domestic violence protective order if applicable;
- Ask the court for sequestration of the marital house in your child custody or support action; or
- Move out yourself.
In North Carolina, a divorce from bed and board refers to a court-ordered decree of legal separation based on the marital fault of either spouse. However, your divorce from bed and board action could take months to be granted. This is something worth considering if you want your spouse to move out as soon as possible.
If you have been subject to domestic violence during the marriage, asking for a protective order (DVPO) may be the most appropriate and fastest way to lock your spouse out of the house.
When Can I Change the Locks?
In North Carolina, you can change the locks if your spouse voluntarily vacates or abandons the marital house or if the court issued a domestic violence protective order. In the former situation, you can change the locks, and your spouse cannot return to the house.
In fact, returning to a marital house after voluntarily leaving it is a criminal offense in North Carolina. If a person does not have permission to enter their previous home, they can face penalties for domestic criminal trespass, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor in North Carolina.
Speak with our Charlotte divorce attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to determine how you can lawfully lock your spouse out of the house if your spouse refuses to move out. Get a phone, video or in-person consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.
The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes two Board-Certified Family Law specialists and one Child Welfare Law specialist, as well as several attorneys with many years of family law experience that are committed to providing a powerful voice to individuals facing the often-tumultuous issues in this area of law. The range of issues our family law clients may be facing include pre- and post-nuptial agreements; separation agreements; post-separation support; child support (both temporary and permanent); absolute divorce; divorce from bed and board; military divorce; equitable distribution of assets; child custody (both temporary and permanent); retirement benefits and divorce; alimony and spousal support; adoption; and emancipation. Because this area of the law is usually emotionally charged and complicated, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC act with the utmost dedication to ensure that each client understands his or her options, and then act to achieve the best result possible for that client’s particular situation.
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