Can I Kick Him Out And Change The Locks?

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If you’re having marital problems, you’ve probably had at least one moment where you want to throw your spouse’s possessions on the front lawn, change the locks, and never look back. Few times are as trying and frustrating as divorce. But when you have this impulse, can you? Legally speaking can you kick out your spouse? And can they do it to you?

Our founding partner, Rick Jones, regularly stops by the Danny Bonaduce and Sarah Morning Show to answer family law questions from listeners. He’s recently fielded multiple questions about the legal grounds for giving your spouse the boot.

As with most legal situations, things vary a great deal from case to case. Whether or not you can kick out your spouse, or whether your spouse can kick you out, depends on the circumstances.

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The First Question:

Caller: “I am so over my husband right now. To sum this up, we have no kids. I own the house. I’ve always owned it and lived in it since we’ve been married. He’s rarely home and when he is he’s a train-wreck. Next time he’s on the road for work, can I move out all his stuff and change the locks? I’m just tired of the whole thing.”

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The First Answer

Rick:Well, when there’s nothing filed with the courts, that means the court has not issued any sort of order putting any rules in between the two of you. So, I call that ‘self-help.’ So I guess the answer is, yes she can. Now the question though, is what does he do? The repercussion is that it may end up making you look bad if it does become a court issue.”

Danny:To who though, Rick, that’s the thing. Most of the stuff I know about this stuff comes right out of your mouth. So here’s the thing: who’s she going to look bad to if its a no-fault state, don’t you just, not care?

Rick:With some of the facts she talked about it’s probably not ever going to get to the court, right, because what’s he gonna do? He’s going to come back and say, ‘My stuff’ is here, it’s just outside.’

“But, imagine a circumstance. Let’s say they had kids, that there was a contested custody issue. Because right now, we’re only hearing her side of the story.

“There’s always two sides, so let’s say he comes back and has a good argument. He says, ‘And by the way, to demonstrate what I’m talking about this person, look at what she did while I was out on the road.'”

Danny:So we agree that she can do it, it just might not be in HER best interest to actually physically do it.

Rick:It wouldn’t be legal advice.

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Conversation Number Two:

While the first caller dealt in theoreticals, the second has more practical, pressing concerns. The caller was kicked out of a shared house by his ex. What can he do? Take a listen:

The Question:

Caller: “My wife and I have been married for about 12 years. When I first met her we lived in a house that she legally owned. It burned to the ground. So with the insurance money, her and I purchased a house that we currently live in.

“My wife’s kinda gone down a dark road and blaming me. Pretty much kicked me out of my house saying this is ‘her house,’ this is ‘her inheritance,’ just going cuckoo.

“So my question is: is it legal what she did? To kick me out of a house that I’m also part owner of which my name is on [the deed]? Because she threatened if I come back she’s going to get the police involved and the whole nine yards.

“Luckily we have no kids between the two of us, which is nice. So if that is the case, what are my legal grounds as far as the house goes? Am I able to say, ‘Well fine then you owe me half the equity, buy me out of the house’?

“Do I need to tell her to sell the house because that’s primarily where her and my grandson live? I’m just kinda like, what do I do here’?”

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The Answer

Rick: “I do hear a couple questions in there, just like you said right up front. First one is: ‘Can she do that?’  This goes back to what we’ve talked about before, which is ‘self-help.’ She said, ‘get out.’ And you did?

Caller:Let’s put it this way, I was threatened if I didn’t get out she was going to have some people come over to happily help her get me out.

Danny:So the question was, she said to leave and you did. I take it that, ‘yeah,’ under whatever circumstances, you did.

Rick: “And that being said, it is sort of a tennis match. I get where he’s coming from, too, because the next thing she may have done if he said, ‘Heck with that I’m staying right here,’ she may make a call to the police and say, ‘Oh now he’s threatened me.’ So there are several ways to address that issue, but I just want to talk to that first point.

“Your second point has to do with characterization of the property. 

The fact that the home was owned apparently outright by her or at least all the equity in the prior home was hers as separate property then the insurance money is going to be considered separate property as well.

“Now, after time though, and as many things as you do with this money, it’s possible it gets a little bit convoluted. It’s up to her to try and trace it back. To demonstrate to the court that it started as her separate [property], and one house turned into separate [property] in another house. 

“Now you’ve been paying the mortgage on this new home I assume as well. So the key really is to do the opposite of that.  Trace it to community funds based on your [collective] income during…your marriage.

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