Obtaining personal belongings in home where locks were changed

Asked 8 months ago - Olympia, WA

My husband pretty much kicked me out of our home in April from our 12 year marriage. I had no other place to go but my daughters in Portland, Oregon. We have been apart and he filed for a petition for a dissolution of marriage in October. I thought we could settle the belongings without a problem but now he has changed locks and will not let me gain access to my personal belongings that were owned before our marriage. Could I get a locksmith to open the door for me if he is not home?

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Thuong-Tri Nguyen

    Contributor Level 20

    2

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . If the petition for dissolution was filed in October 2013, then the court has not entered final orders for the case since there is a statutory waiting period of 90 days in WA.

    You should review the court orders to see whether the court has entered any order regarding what should be done with the properties while the case is waiting for trial.

    If the court has not entered any order prohibiting you from being in the marital home, you still have the legal right to be in the marital home. If the court has not entered any order prohibiting you from taking your properties, you can take them.

    "Could I get a locksmith to open the door for me if he is not home?" A problem for you likely is to find a locksmith who will open the door for you. While a locksmith likely has the ability to defeat the locks currently on the door, the locksmith may not want trouble if you cannot produce any evidence that you have legal right to be in the property.

    The best course of action for you likely is to get a court order allowing you to retrieve your properties.

    You can file a motion with the court. If the court is convinced the properties are your separate properties, the court likely will order the husband to hand the properties to you or allow you to get the properties.

    You should review the specific facts with your attorney to find out your legal options.

  2. Rodney Gene Franzen

    Contributor Level 5

    2

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . You should obtain a court order which would allow you to retrieve your belongings You could have also possibly obtained such an order to take possession of the family home. It sounds like you may need the assistance of competent counsel to keep your husband from taking advantage of you.

  3. Elizabeth Rankin Powell

    Contributor Level 20

    2

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . You'd do better to spend your money on a lawyer than a locksmith. If you were married 12 years, it is highly likely that your husband is going to be ordered to pay you maintenance, and may well be ordered to pay your attorney fees as well, especially if he's taken matters into his own hands by tossing you out of the house. This used to be called "suit money", but whatever you call it, the assets of your marital community are half yours (as are the liabilities) and as such, you cannot be effectively cut off from what is yours by your husband's fiat.

    You may well be able to settle your divorce. Most divorces do settle. But not when one spouse is in charge of everything and the other spouse is looking for crumbs. Level the playing field. Go get a local, experienced, well-regarded family law attorney. Elizabeth Powell

    Using Avvo does not form an attorney client relationship.
  4. Diane Grecco

    Contributor Level 7

    1

    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . Your question is whether you can get a locksmith to open the door when he is not home? I would recommend that you not proceed that way. As previously mentioned, once you are before a judge and you can demonstrate that these items were yours before marriage and "he kicked you out" which didn't allow you to take the items when you left -- then I am guessing a judge will allow you to get the items or be compensated if he has discarded them. You probably need to act quickly, as 6 months have already passed, and he might make some claim that you abandoned the items (if he has discarded them). Hopefully, you have some records or people who can attest otherwise. If you want to get your items back and fair well regarding any distribution -- get a lawyer. You might be able to get attorney fees awarded depending on your situation and ability. I'm guessing if he booted you out and you have no place to go that he has more resources than you do. Good Luck.

    THIS IS INTENDED TO PROVIDE GENERAL LEGAL INFORMATION AND CONSULTATION WITH A LEGAL PROFESSIONAL IS ALWAYS... more

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