Can I Change The Locks if my Spouse Moves Out?

A close up of a lock with a key in it.
Changing the locks after a spouse moves out is best done AFTER you’ve discussed it with your attorney and got permission from a Judge.

We get asked this a lot. People come into the office, curious about how to go about filing for divorce, and they want to know if, since their husband or wife moved out already, they can change the locks. It’s a good question, and one that we would always recommend you go ahead and discuss with your divorce attorney before making any rash moves. So let’s take a minute to talk about it now. Can you change the locks after your spouse moves out of your home?

This is actually a little trickier than it seems…

The issue of changing the locks after one spouse moves out might seem very straightforward in the movies, but in real life (which is usually messier), things are rarely that cut and dried. For example, under Michigan law, just because your spouse has moved out of your marital home doesn’t mean you have the right to bar their access to the house. If they still have belongings in the home, or they are listed on the lease or mortgage, you don’t have the right to cut them off from their own property. Even if it’s only your name on the deed, if you bought the property during your marriage it counts as marital property.

There are a few exceptions to that rule, though…

If your spouse was abusing you or your children, and you’ve filed a personal protection order, you should be able to change the locks on your home for your own safety. They might still have belongings in the home, but a supervised collection time can be arranged with the local police, where they can safely arrive, overseen by an officer, to collect the things they need, and you don’t have to be present when it happens. 

You can ask a Judge for permission to change the locks.

Also, if your spouse moves out and you stay in the home, once you file for divorce you may be able to ask the Judge to allow you to keep the home. At that time, if the judge gives you permission to stay in the home while your spouse lives elsewhere, you might be allowed to change the locks. If you’re unsure, talk to your divorce attorney. The most important thing is to make sure that you’re following the law, and not doing something that your spouse could later use as ammunition against you in the divorce process. So don’t do anything rash until you’ve discussed all your options with your lawyer.

Make sure you have a skilled and experienced divorce attorney

If you’re considering a divorce here in Michigan, but aren’t sure what your next steps should be, come and talk to us. The experienced family law attorneys at the Kronzek Firm have spent decades helping the families of mid-Michigan with all of their family law-related needs, whether it’s divorce, custody, asset division, alimony or CPS-related issues. We’re available 24/7, and have a long-standing reputation in the community for being hard-working, ethical and fierce. If you’re ready to end your marriage, we can help you.