Can I change the locks on the doors of the house I own with my spouse?
You can change the locks, but in most circumstances you can’t keep them out, or have any legal recourse, unless you have a court order restricting them from entering. Two ways that they may be kept out of the marital residence would be with a Family Court Order for Exclusive Possession, or by petitioning for a Protection From Abuse Order.
An Order for Exclusive Possession is the result of a Motion presented to the court, which awards possession of the marital residence to one of the parties. You should be aware, however, that even if you successfully argue for Exclusive Possession during the pendency of the divorce action, that does not mean that you will ultimately be awarded the marital residence during equitable distribution.
A PA Family Court Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order will only be issued if you and/or your child have been physically abused, or are in imminent reasonable fear of physical abuse from an immediate family member (i.e. your husband). To acquire a PFA, you must appear in front of the PFA Judge in the Family Court, and file a Petition for a Temporary PFA. The Temporary PFA will keep the other party out of the house and away from the family. You will then appear at a final PFA hearing, at which both sides will present testimony, and if the Judge is convinced of the abuse, then a final PFA Order will be issued, which can last for a maximum of three (3) years. You should be aware that a PFA order could affect child custody and child support (if you have children obviously), as well as spousal support, in addition to possession of the marital residence.
Changing the locks is a big step to take in the divorce process. If you are considering it, or doing anything else involving the marital residence, it is important that you consult with an experienced Pennsylvania family law attorney to make sure that you understand the consequences of what you are considering.
Our office accepts Pennsylvania family law cases including divorce, equitable distribution, spousal support, alimony pendente lite, alimony, paternity and child support matters, child custody cases, juvenile law cases, and related matters in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Beaver County, Berks County, Butler County, Clearfield County, Washington County, Westmoreland County (Greensburg), Lawrence County. Our law firm accepts Pennsylvania family law cases from other Pennsylvania counties including Armstrong County (Kittanning) Clarion County, Fayette County, Greene County, Indiana County, Somerset County, and Venango County on a case-by-case basis.
The statements in this section are based on Pennsylvania law and have been issued to inform and not advise. The statements are general in nature and individual facts in a given case may alter their application or involve other laws not referred to here.