Divorce and Changing the Locks – Removing Your Ex’s Belongings

Getting a divorce can be difficult in so many ways, especially if it’s not amicable. This is especially true if the divorce is happening because one partner left the other for someone else. This often makes the jilted partner angry, jealous, depressed, and sometimes even destructive.

Matters are made even worse if the betrayed spouse is left living in the house they shared, but the other spouse has left all or most of their belongings behind when they walked out. Having to battle the sadness and feelings of betrayal while simultaneously having to be constantly face-to-face with your ex-partner’s things can make it even more difficult to move past the pain, especially when the ex shows up often to retrieve some of their things, but never all of them. This type of manipulation tactic can make you see red and want to destroy your ex’s belongings. We all know someone who’s tossed an ex’s things out onto the front lawn or sent them up in flames in a backyard bonfire.

Though this can be incredibly enticing, don’t do it! Regardless of how badly you want to sink to their level when it comes to divorce proceedings, it’s imperative to be the bigger person.

Locks: To Change or Not to Change

If you are the spouse still living in the home after a breakup or divorce, it may be tempting to change the locks to stop your ex from coming and going as they please. Having to see the person who left or betrayed you on a regular basis can be excruciatingly painful. So it’s understandable that you would want to do whatever is in your power to stop that from happening, and changing the locks seems like such a simple solution.

There are problems that may arise with this approach. If the home you shared is in your name only, then you can go ahead and change those locks! If both of your names or only your ex’s name are on the deed, you cannot legally change the locks without their permission. Well, you can, but be forewarned that as long as their name is on the property, they too can just as easily change them, even if they’re not living there.

It’s best to avoid any extra-legal battles when going through a potentially already messy divorce or to avoid making it messy if it hasn’t reached that point.

Saying Bye-Bye to Their Belongings

We’re going to repeat what we said earlier. Do not burn, throw out, or otherwise damage your ex-spouse’s belongings, no matter how badly you want to.

Having to walk past the belongings of the person you once loved when you’re trying to move on is never easy, especially if they’ve left the majority of their things behind. If you’ve asked them to come and retrieve their things and they still haven’t, or are refusing to, there are avenues to take that don’t involve the very illegal destruction of property.

One suggestion we make is for the partner still living in the home to go ahead and rent a storage unit – at their expense for the first month – and put all your ex’s things in there. Tell your ex that you’ve put their stuff in storage and they have 30 days to either get it out or continue to pay the storage bill themselves. Give them the key so that they have direct access to their belongings, and tell them you’ve done this so that they no longer have to come to their former home every time they need something. Remind them that you paid the initial fee for the first month of storage. What happens after that is up to them and you can wipe your hands clean of their things. Civility is key in a divorce.

Alternatively, if you can’t afford or simply don’t want to rent them a storage unit, contact your lawyer and file a complaint for divorce. Once you get that process rolling, the court can give you full, exclusive possession of the house, and then the lawyers will arrange a proper date and time for your ex to come and retrieve their belongings. Again, this frees you from having to deal with it on your own. This is obviously the best route, but if you’re still not in the right mindset to file for divorce yet, then we suggest you go with the storage unit.

Divorce is a tricky avenue to navigate, especially if you’re caught off guard and weren’t expecting it at all. You may want to lash out in anger, but the thing you can do for yourself is to remain as civil as possible. To hear more from divorce attorney Jessica Anderson, listen to her radio show, Love Court, which you can also find on YouTube.