Divorces are complicated, and if not mutual, can quickly become hostile or bitter. Before a divorce, most couples will entertain a trial separation. During such separations, one spouse might request the other to vacate the marital home. Most attorneys will not advise their clients to leave the home willingly because it can lead to complications during the divorce proceedings, especially if the separation is not legal or authorized by the courts.
Likelihood of Legal Intervention
In situations where one spouse refuses to leave the marital home, it is not uncommon for the requesting spouse to seek legal intervention. Still, such interference is unlikely, especially if the situation is not combative or unhealthy. A judge typically only gets involved if there is a history of domestic violence, drug or alcohol addiction, or some other issue that calls into question the safety of the household.
Changing the Locks
In many cases and states, the requesting spouse might take matters into their own hands and change the locks, supposedly leaving the other spouse with little recourse. However, the other party has equal rights to the marital home until the court determines otherwise. Therefore, a spouse returning home to changed locks is within their rights in most states to break into their home. In fact, some police forces will often advise a spouse to break a window to reenter the home, or they will demand the door be unlocked.
While it can seem unfair to be forced to live with a partner you are divorcing, if the home is marital property, it cannot willfully be taken away from one spouse or the other. If you cannot live with your spouse any longer, and they are refusing to leave the marital property, your only recourse might be to move out yourself. Granted, it is not what you want, but it can defuse a potentially uncomfortable situation, allowing the divorce to proceed without premature and unnecessary escalation.
However, before you decide to move out or change the locks, consider contacting a local divorce attorney to discuss your options. Every state has different regulations about divorce and marital property. It is possible you might find an amicable solution to your living arrangements without taking extreme actions. Remember, the goal of any divorce is to compromise and come to an equitable arrangement that works for both parties. Alienating one party early in the process will typically result in a lengthy, complex, and somewhat confrontational process. If you are dealing with a difficult or contested divorce, contact a lawyer as soon as possible, such as a contested divorce lawyer from The Law Offices of Marty D. Martin.