In Pennsylvania, when people are going through a divorce, neither party can unilaterally make the decision to change locks to the marital residence, without either the consent of the other party or by obtaining an order of court.
Generally, there are two ways to obtain an order of court to get approval to change locks and/or keep a spouse out of the marriage residence. The first method is when there is an abusive situation and one spouse obtains a Protection from Abuse Order. A Protection from Abuse Order can cover many items, but one item it addresses is that it can allow one spouse to reside exclusively in the marital residence, which would allow that spouse to change the locks.
The second most common manner in which somebody obtains an order allowing them to change the locks is when a divorce is filed. One party often asks the court to allow them to live in the marital residence alone while proceeding with the divorce. This is none as asking for exclusive possession of the marital residence.
To get an exclusive possession request granted, absent consent from the other spouse, one spouse generally has to demonstrate to the court that there is a justified reason for the court to approve a request to allow one spouse to live in the residence alone. This might include the other spouse’s behavior effecting the living situation of the other spouse or their children.
Generally, if a spouse is granted the right to live in the marital residents alone, however, keep in mind that spouse will be required to pay all expenses associated with the house pending living in the house alone or completion of the divorce.
Greg is a Partner with Leech Tishman and a member of the Litigation Practice Group, where he focuses on Family Law. Greg is based in the Pittsburgh office, representing clients in Pittsburgh and in all counties within the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. Greg has been practicing Family Law since 1995 and takes pride in easing the daily stress of clients as they navigate through a difficult time in life. In his years of experience, Greg has become well-versed in all aspects of Family Law, which includes divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, spousal support and protection from abuse.