Can I Change the Locks in an Alabama Divorce?
Divorce can be an emotional time. When tensions run high in a relationship, one person may decide to leave the marital home. As a Birmingham Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer over many years I've seen it all. In some cases, one spouse may even move out completely. One of the most common questions asked of an Alabama divorce lawyer is whether the spouse remaining in the family home can change the locks.
If you are facing a divorce in Birmingham, or throughout Alabama, it's important to speak to a family law attorney before you take action. You have important rights. Your lawyer can help you make sure you protect them. Your lawyer can also stop you from making mistakes that could harm your case and your chances of obtaining a fair and reasonable outcome.
Both Spouses Have an Equal Right to the Marital Home
In Alabama, the law gives both spouses an equal right to possession of the marital home. In short, this means both the husband and the wife have a right to live in the home regardless of how the home is titled. With limited exceptions, one spouse can't stop the other spouse from entering the home or living in it, even if the parties are going through a divorce. Even if one person moves out, the spouse staying in the home can't change the locks or otherwise bar them from entering.
Obviously, it can be uncomfortable to live with someone when you are in the middle of a divorce. Although you may wish to begin your new life by moving out and getting an apartment or purchasing a new home, speak to an attorney before taking any action. In some cases, the court may view your decision to move out as an indication that you have more resources than the spouse who remained behind. If you move out, your spouse may also be able to persuade the court that you are less interested in keeping the home, which could lead the court to allow your spouse to remain in the home permanently.
Exclusive Possession of the Marital Home
Unfortunately, some marriages break up due to domestic violence or the threat of domestic violence. When one spouse fears for his or her safety due to the other person's behavior, he or she may be able to obtain exclusive use and possession of the marital home while the divorce is pending.
To get exclusive possession of the marital home, you must first file for divorce. There are technically other ways to remove a spouse from the home, such as a Protection From Abuse Order or an Ex Parte Order from the Court. Once your case is active, you can petition the court to grant an order giving you exclusive possession of the home. Once the court's order is in place, you can change the locks to stop the other person from entering. Generally speaking, courts in Alabama don't grant one person exclusive possession of the marital home unless there is compelling evidence showing the spouse in the home has a legitimate reason for keeping the other person out.
Furthermore, an order granting one spouse exclusive possession of the marital home stays in place only while the divorce is pending. Once the court determines how the home will be divided between the spouses, the order is replaced by whatever agreement or order is put in place by the final divorce decree. Having said all this, I've successfully removed many a spouse from their homes during an Alabama divorce action.
Call an Alabama Divorce Lawyer Today
The decision to divorce usually comes with a lot of questions. When you're facing the end of your marriage, you want to know your next steps. Fortunately, experienced help is available. Call an Alabama family law attorney to discuss your case. Call today at (205) 981-2450 to schedule a free consultation with an Alabama divorce attorney.