15 Apr Can I Change The Locks? By Joanna Diamantopoulos
This is usually one of the first questions clients ask me after they have just separated from their partner in circumstances where they may feel worried about their personal safety or the security of their house and contents.
The break-up of a relationship is usually a confusing and worrying time. It can involve a lot of uncertainty about what to do next and how it will affect your financial future. It is the family lawyer’s role to help alleviate this uncertainty, and show you the way forward.
Separation can, of course, happen in one of two ways (apart from separation under the one roof).
Either both parties agree that the marriage or relationship is over and they decide who will leave the home or one party comes home to find the other has left without saying a word taking with them various items such as their personal belongings and often furniture.
It is not uncommon for the partner who decides to stay in the home to find the home completely cleaned out! If this happens it is seen as giving exclusive ownership of the home to the other.
The partner who remains in the home should be entitled to feel safe and secure in the home. If that is breached or threatened, the partner in the home is well within their rights to change the locks to prevent the other partner from having access, even though the other partner is the joint owner of the home.
While changing the locks is a good way to make sure that you don’t come home to the unwelcome surprise of a housemate you don’t want, using that tactic as a way of telling your partner its over.
Keep in mind that if your partner is a co-owner they are also entitled to change the locks which can give them entry and exclude you. Also keep in mind that If you are a tenant you should not change the locks without the agreement of the landlord.
If the issue of who stays and who is to go and stay away becomes difficult to resolve, then the issue can be dealt with one of two ways. It may be possible for the resident partner to apply to the Police for an intervention order if you feel that the non-resident partner’s actions are threatening and harassing.
Otherwise, you can consult a family lawyer such as myself to assist you in resolving this issue informally by agreement or by way of an application to the Federal Circuit Court or Family Court for an order for sole use and occupation, which can be made at the same time you apply for orders for division of all of the property of the marriage or relationship.
If you or someone you know is faced with such an issue, call us now on 08 8276 7955.