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Is it legal to enter a home to retrieve personal items after a marriage separation? No divorce filed, still paying the bills.

Vero Beach, FL |

My uncle would like to enter the home to retrieve his personal items (which he has receipts for). Can he hire a locksmith to help him enter if the locks have been changed? Can he bring a police officer along?

My uncle has been separated from his wife for 8 months. He still pays the bills (cell phone, cable, water, electric) and has a valid license with the address of the house. His mail also still goes to the house. The house mortgage is not in his name. No one has filed a divorce, and there are no children involved. He is unaware if the locks have been changed, or if his personal items are still in the house.

Attorney Answers 3

  1. If nothing is filed, then he has every right to enter his marital home and remove belongings. However, please note that in doing so, he may be making a mountain out of a molehill.

    Don't involve the police absent a domestic dispute problem. They will simply state that it is a civil matter to be handled in family court.

    Note: The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.

  2. There are several factors that need to taken into account. First, are there any restraining orders, second, have any documents been filed in court establishing that the wife has exclusive use of the marital home?

    The best course of action would be to amicably ask his wife to set up a time for him to come and pick up his "stuff." If he startles her on entry to the home and she has a firearm, a tragedy could result. Have this request in written form such as an email or text. Even assuming no restraining orders or court orders granting exclusive right of possession the home to wife, he should still see legal counsel before entering the home.

  3. Yes, he can enter the house to retrieve his personal belongings. If the locks have been changed, he can have a locksmith open up the house. I would suggest that he do this in a non-confrontational manner so as to avoid any domestic violence situations. I would also suggest that he have a copy of the deed to the house in his possession at the time he enters the house. It is also probably a good idea to take pictures of the personal property in the house, so that when the divorce occurs, all personal property can be accounted for and distributed.

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