Marital breakdown – changing the locks on the family home

Nicola Furmston Profile Photo

Many people ask whether they can change the locks on the family home when their husband or wife moves out. The person left in the house rarely wants the person who left to be able to walk in and out of the property freely.

On marital breakdown, if a property is in the joint names of both parties there is no legal right to change the locks, but locks are often changed without challenge. If a challenge is made, this is in the form of an application to the court, which is able to force the remaining party to provide a key.

If a marital home is in the sole name of the remaining party, the spouse who has moved out also has a legal right to live in the property. Breaking back into the property might seem tempting but bear in mind that, if someone living in the house is frightened as a result of this action, a criminal offence has been committed.

This situation often comes down to basic courtesy. Once you have moved out is it polite to walk back in unannounced?

If you need advice, our friendly and experienced solicitors are on hand to help. Call the team on 01473 611211 or email

Divorce Solicitors Suffolk – click here for more information on our services.