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Change Locks During Long Island Divorce?Can I Change the Locks During My Long Island Divorce to Keep My Spouse Out?

During your Long Island divorce, a main area of concern for you and your spouse is likely the question of who gets to remain in the marital residence. The two of you may have purchased this home at the beginning of your marriage and resided there for years, or it may be a relatively new home you moved into after you had your children.

Whatever the case may be, you both feel a connection to the residence and neither is willing to voluntarily say it is no longer their home. Many clients who find themselves in situations such as this ask me if they may change the locks on the residence when their spouse is at work or otherwise out. In short, the answer is no, absent a few rare situations which are discussed below.

Why Can’t I Change the Locks?

The fact that I am telling you to refrain from changing your locks may seem odd to you as a homeowner. However, you are free to change the locks on the residence just as you always were. The catching point is that during a divorce most people’s intent behind doing so is to keep his or her spouse out, and that is what is not permitted. If you do decide to change the locks, you must give your spouse the new keys, therefore giving him or her access to the residence just as before.

When Am I Permitted to Change the Locks to Keep My Spouse Out?

While your divorce is pending, there are a limited number of circumstances in which one spouse is granted use of the marital residence to the exclusion of the other spouse.

  1. Your Spouse Abandoned the Marital Residence: The first such instance is if your spouse has voluntarily abandoned the marital residence and established a new residence. If your spouse took his or her belongings, furniture, and other personal effects and moved into an apartment 20 miles away seven months ago, you may have grounds for changing the locks and establishing the residence as your own, separate and apart from your spouse.
  1. A “Stay Away” Order of Protection: While situations which require Orders of Protection tend to be volatile and at times even dangerous, an Order of Protection can serve to keep your spouse out of the marital residence and away from you. In order to be granted Order of Protection your spouse must commit one of the qualifying family offenses, and you then must file the petition with the court. There are two types of orders of protection: a “refrain from” and a “stay away”. If you are granted a “refrain from” order of protection, your spouse must “refrain from” engaging in the behaviors listed in the order, however unless otherwise noted, he or she is still permitted to be in your immediate presence. On the other hand, a “stay away” order of protection provides that your spouse not come within a certain distance of you, and at times your children. If you are granted this type of order, it naturally follows that your spouse must vacate the marital residence and has no right to re-enter during the duration of the order. In such an instance, you may change the locks to prevent your spouse from entering. However, if the order of protection is only valid until a certain date, once that date comes, your spouse must be permitted to access the residence again.
  1. Temporary Exclusive Use and Occupancy of the Marital Residence: During the pendency of your litigated divorce, your Long Island Divorce Attorney may file what is called a pendente lite order to show cause. In other words, your attorney may file a motion asking for relief that will begin on the date the order is signed and continue until the final judgment of the case. When preparing these motions most Long Island Divorce Attorneys request that their client be granted exclusive use and occupancy of the marital residence. Although the divorce laws in New York provide for this type of relief, it is rarely granted by the courts. In order to grant one spouse exclusive use and occupancy of the marital residence, the court must find that continuing to allow both parties to reside in the marital residence would threaten the safety of persons or property. This is a hard standard to meet. Your divorce attorney will likely ask you about the specific facts and living conditions at home, and look to see what if anything may be useful to support your request.

The bottom line: do not resort to self-help. While locking your spouse out may seem like an attractive option, it will only work against you in court, as it may be seen as abandonment by lock-out, which then may provide your spouse with a counter-claim or additional grounds for divorce. Until a court rules otherwise or your spouse abandons you, both parties are entitled the same access to the marital residence as before. As always, be sure to speak to your divorce attorney about the specifics of your case.

Compassionate & Experienced Long Island Divorce Lawyers Can Help

The compassionate and experienced divorce attorneys at Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. have years of experience helping couples resolve their marital residence issues. If you have questions, give us a call Contact us today at 631-923-1910 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced Long Island divorce attorney.

For more information about Property Division in your divorce, visit our Complete Guide to Dividing Property in Divorce.

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clifaud archange
clifaud archange
02:21 01 Apr 22
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Elizabeth Martin
Elizabeth Martin
21:06 25 Jan 22
The team at Hornberger Verbitsky made me feel at ease after I retained them after a 3 year contested divorce process. I like their approach with how they educate you on ways to get the best outcome in your divorce. Mr. Hornberger made me feel heard and was compassionate to my case while also being aggressive in the courtroom to help me get the most positive outcome. He prevented my case from having to go to trial and he closed the deal in my long drawn out emotional divorce. I was happy that I retained him and would recommend him to anyone that is going through a high conflict divorce.
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Elizabeth Martin
Elizabeth Martin
21:06 25 Jan 22
The team at Hornberger Verbitsky made me feel at ease after I retained them after a 3 year contested divorce process. I... like their approach with how they educate you on ways to get the best outcome in your divorce. Mr. Hornberger made me feel heard and was compassionate to my case while also being aggressive in the courtroom to help me get the most positive outcome. He prevented my case from having to go to trial and he closed the deal in my long drawn out emotional divorce. I was happy that I retained him and would recommend him to anyone that is going through a high conflict divorce.read more
rrezarta lekaj
rrezarta lekaj
20:47 24 Nov 21
Christine is truly the best there is. She is beyond professional, personable, genuine, extremely trusting, and has made... such a stressful and emotional time for my family and I easier to get through. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for your guidance, your support, and being there every step of the way. I would highly recommend Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. to anyone that is in need for legal advice - you will be in the best hands.read more
Janine Martello D'onofrio
Janine Martello D'onofrio
21:00 02 Oct 21
Rob and Christine are the very best out there!I can not say enough about them. They both have helped me so much in... different matters throughout the last several years . They have gone over and beyond!I highly recommend this law firm !read more
Tara Tocci
Tara Tocci
20:59 17 Sep 21
I called to make an appointment for a consultation to discuss a mediated divorce, the office was fantastic with getting... me a prompt appointment. When going in all my questions were asked and I left feeling comfortable in my decision to move forward in using the Hornberger/Verbitsky office. Despite a pandemic going on the office still worked diligently to get my papers filed and my divorce complete in a timely manner. Highly recommend!read more
cristina romero
cristina romero
20:17 17 Sep 21
Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C were phenomenal in every way. Robert was very genuine, patient and professional. Walking in,... I had no idea what to expect but he went above and beyond to explain the entire process thoroughly. He guided and informed me of my rights. Patty was amazing, she answered every question I had no matter how many times I called, she was very understanding. I highly recommend Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. Even if its just for questions on how to navigate this process.read more
Kerri
Kerri
16:57 17 Sep 21
Rob and his team are by far one of the greatest! Patty is amazing and will make sure all of your questions are... addressed and responded to. Rob and his team made a very tough time in my life as simple as possible. Rob is extremely knowledgeable and very empathetic. Patty was a pleasure to work with and I would recommend this firm to anyone that needs a great divorce attorney. Thank you for all of your help!read more
Angela Thearle
Angela Thearle
00:21 07 Aug 21
Hornberger law was the best choice I made when I needed to go to family court with my ex for custody of my children.... They were there at any time when I neeeded them. Going through a custody battle can be a huge emotional rollercoaster and very painful. They helped me through it and made it less painful and heartbreaking. And I got the outcome plus more than I expectedread more
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Everyone was very professional. Never had to call to get an update on my case. Someone always updated me on a regular... basis.read more
LilMissPerfct Dessie
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I am a graduate of Norland English nanny college. I thank God every day that Mr. Robert Hornberger protected my clients... in the legal ways i could not. Children are a blessing not a blender to be fought over during some silly spat!read more
Anastasia R
Anastasia R
22:45 17 Dec 20
I went to see Rob for a modification for my child custody agreement to relocate, I can honestly say that working with... Rob and Christine has been the best experience. I cannot recommend them enough I only wish I had seen them sooner. They are prompt with communication, and they are honest which I appreciate so much. They do not give you fake promises and they do their best to fight for what you want which they do amazingly well! You can tell they are passionate about what they do and care about their clients. A very important aspect of lawyer client relationship for me is an open line of communication, the anxiety of the unknown always gets the best of us. The fact they were always available whether it be phone call or email to answer any question was extremely comforting and exactly what I needed. I am not well versed with laws and regulation so knowing I had Rob and his partners there when I was unsure or conflicted was extremely needed and greatly appreciated.When it comes to family court it's never easy but having Rob and his partner by my side I felt extremely comfortable and he helped me have realistic expectations. Please TRUST HIM!! If you're looking for a lawyer (at least for my end from child custody/Family Court) don't look any further you will not be disappointed. I hope to never have to use them again but in the event I have to, they are going to be my forever first call.read more
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I hired Robert to handle a child custody and child support matter. He was prompt and professional and was able to... achieve a result that 3 prior attorneys could not. He and his staff made a stressful situation easy. I highly recommend his office.read more
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I am a paralegal in an unrelated field of law. I phoned Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. today intending to refer a client... to their office. Instead (and despite that we are the midst of the present crisis), Mr. Hornberger himself graciously accommodated my questions over the telephone, and was generous with his time and adroit in his response, saving our client a small fortune in unnecessary legal fees. I have not had any similar experience, in which counsel was so generous with his expertise, in 22+ years of interacting with prominent, local attorneys, and the client is overjoyed. Based on this experience, I would now whole -heartedly recommend this firm as trusted professionals to any client requiring a firm expert in family law and related legal issues.read more
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Everett Roberts
14:30 18 Mar 20
Going through a divorce was very challenging and emotional. Searching for an attorney can be challenging as well when... you consider everything that is at stake. The choice I made to work with Rob Hornberger was surely the best choice available. His professionalism, expertise, and understanding made him and the entire team perfectly suited to achieve the outcomes I desired. Rob was always available to answer my questions and give me advice and legal considerations that affected my situation. The support I received from his staff was exemplary as well. The staff was courteous, kind, and also very professional. Thank you so much Rob and team for a worry free experience.read more
Annemarie Cusumano
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21:41 17 Mar 20
Being in family court especially when your children are on the line is extremely emotional and stressful but working... with Robert and Christine put me at ease and made the process as pleasant as a situation like that can be. I have a now 3 year old daughter (who is the most important person in my life) and I've been working with them for over two years since my daughter was 7 months old, the case has been up and down and through it all Rob and Christine have never given up. My original case was due to a neglect charge. Cps is not easy to work with, but Rob and Christine were vigilant and I ended up getting my daughter back within 8 months and did not have to plead guilty to the neglect. Currently I am in family court to figure out a custody agreement. They are professional, empathetic, and patient. They have always explained everything thoroughly, informed me of all my options and advised me of what my best option would be. They always respond quickly when I contact them with questions or concerns and most importantly they fight for me in court and don't give up even when things get rough. Before hiring Rob and Christine I met with other attorneys who did not make me feel confident or comfortable at all about my case, so I am very grateful to have found Rob and Christine and to be represented by such great attorneys. I highly recommend them for any family court matters and will definitely continue to use them in the future if needed.read more
Randi Gottlieb
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Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. - Mr. Robert Hornberger and his staff are beyond professional, they quickly gave me my... consultation appointment, and helped me with an after-Divorce issue. Mr. Hornberger was empathetic and explained to me what I should expect. Mr. Hornberger was extremely professional and advised me of my options, he helped me proceed with accurate and smart decisions. I wish I had Mr. Hornberger and his highly recommended staff when I was getting divorced. I would highly recommend Robert and his staff to anyone who is getting a divorce or in need of help with situations after the divorce!read more
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Ashley Hubner
Ashley Hubner
20:30 14 Feb 20
Navigating my divorce was a challenging experience to say the least, but I was supported and guided every step of the... way by my attorney, Robert. With the daunting task of hiring a divorce lawyer, I knew I would need someone with the right combination of knowledge, compassion and integrity. Robert has a strong background in family law, sincere character and direct communication to be superior to the others. He and his staff were professional and caring. I always felt I was in good hands. I highly recommend the Law Offices Hornberger and Verbitsky for the legal expertise, compassion and understanding of the many complex facets associated with divorce.read more
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Thomas Livingston
21:31 26 Jan 20
Robert and Christine are the epitome of professionalism. They helped us with the purchase of our new home. They were... efficient, dedicated, and focused on making our closing as seamless as possible.read more
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Sheila Vasata
23:35 14 Jan 20
Robert Hornberger has been a friend of mine and my family for years. He has helped us all in ways that are too... numerable to mention. I went through a divorce that I don’t think I could’ve done if I didn’t have Robert by my side. He is vivacious, motivated, knowledgeable, and has an extreme desire to succeed and excel...and he does! He goes over and above for all of his clientele. I would recommend his law firm to anybody who is looking for a Great Lawyer with integrity!read more
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