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Can I change the locks after separating?

December 3, 2020

If you are going through a divorce, dissolving your civil partnership, or have recently separated from your partner, you may find it difficult to remain in the same property together whilst you are making arrangements for contact with your children or dividing your assets. It may be tempting to change the locks on the property to distance yourself from them, but this is often not a sensible option.

Jointly owned property

If you own the property jointly, whether you are married, in a civil partnership, or cohabitees, each legal owner has a right to access the property and therefore you cannot change the locks without their agreement. If you do change the locks, the other party can use reasonable force to re-enter the property or ask a locksmith to change the locks again.

It is possible to exclude a legal owner from a jointly owned property by obtaining an occupation order from the court, but this may be a difficult application to make as the court is often reluctant to exclude a legal owner from their home without evidence of a risk of harm to the other owner and/or children if they were not asked to leave.

Solely owned property

If you are not married or in a civil partnership, and you are the only person who owns the property, as the legal owner you are able to change the locks to exclude the other party from the property. You should give the other party a reasonable notice period for them to move out and/or to collect their belongings. The other party can apply to the court for an occupation order to confirm their right to remain in the property.

If you are married and you are the only person who owns your home, the non-owner can apply to the Land Registry to protect their right to remain in the family home by registering a matrimonial home rights notice against the property. You can find out more in our article here: Can I protect my home on divorce if I do not own it?.

Wallace Robinson & Morgan Limited are based in Solihull and Dorridge and serve clients across Birmingham and the West Midlands, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and further afield. Our team of Family Lawyers are happy to help if you would like advice about agreeing a financial settlement following the end of your marriage or civil partnership or dividing your assets after separating from your partner.

If you would like to discuss your matter, please call 0121 705 7571 and ask to speak to a member of the Family law team or email us at

This article is for general information purposes only. It does not constitute technical, financial, legal advice or any other type of professional advice and is no substitute for specific advice based on your individual circumstances. We do not accept responsibility or liability for any actions taken based on the information in this article. For more information, please click here.