Can I change the locks to keep my estranged wife out?

By Juliet Phillips-James, Director, Gomer Williams (as featured in the Llanelli Star)

Q: My wife and I have separated and she has moved out of our home. She keeps coming back to the property every so often to get certain items. I am uncomfortable with her unannounced visits. Can I change the locks to the house so that she has to contact me before attending, and can I ensure I am there when she attends?

A: The simple answer is no. However, if your wife has moved out, it is reasonable to expect her to give you reasonable notice prior to her attending the house.
If she does not agree to this, you will need to seek advice from a matrimonial solicitor about whether or not it is appropriate to change the locks.
Usually, the only reason where it is justifiable to change the locks is when there have been threats or actual violence. In such circumstances it would be possible to get an order preventing the person from entering the property.
It is irrelevant whether you own the property in just your name or jointly with your wife.
If jointly, you cannot usually change the locks without the other owner's consent. If the property is solely owned by you, your wife still has the right to occupy the property.
If you exclude her from the property, she could make an application to the court for an occupation order, which will allow her access to the property until further notice.
In order to keep relations as amicable as possible between you and your wife, and to avoid the cost of costly litigation, I would advise attempting to discuss the issue with your wife and asking that she could give you some notice prior to attending the property.
Alternatively, if you have already consulted a solicitor regarding your divorce, you could request a non-confrontational letter is sent to this affect.

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