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Can my spouse change the locks when he or she files for divorce?

Divorce is uncomfortable to say the least, and living in a shared space during a divorce whether the earliest stages or near the end can be volatile. However, marital property and residence are still shared property and neither party has the right to limit the other parties’ access to the property without Court intervention.

Indiana Law does allow, once a Judge holds a hearing or an agreement has been reached, the exclusive possession of property. That property can include a home, but that does not grant ownership. Exclusive possession of property requires a Judge’s approval, and certain counties in Indiana have gone as far as to create local rules to express this need for a Judge to be involved so one spouse doesn’t take the matters into their own hands, and literally take the keys to the marital kingdom.

As an example, Hamilton County Local Rule 402.70 states in part; [I]n any Domestic Relations case filed in Hamilton County, the parties shall not, without hearing or security: a. Transfer, encumber, conceal, sell or otherwise dispose of any joint property of the parties or asset of the marriage except in the usual course of business or for the necessities of life, without the written consent of the parties or the permission of the Court. That is, in Hamilton County and others, a party going through a divorce cannot take matters into their own hands and lock out their spouse without a judge’s order to do so.

Finding a new, suitable place, for you to live if you are the one who is unlikely to maintain the exclusive possession of your home is paramount and a difficult decision. As suggested by the rule, Courts suggest that one should be forced to make that choice while standing outside their own house discovering the locks have been changed.

Looking for a Hamilton County family law attorney? Contact the attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP today! We stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law and its application to their individualized case. Act now and contact us today at (317) 857-0160.

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