What are my rights to what I can / can't do in respects to my estranged husband and house?

Asked almost 2 years ago - North Arlington, NJ

After 20 years my husband left both me and my teenage kids and moved out. He still pays the mortgage, tax and insurance bills for the house. He also still has his mail delivered to the house even though he has been living elsewhere for the last 11 months. He has told me he has no intentions of reconciling with me but he will not file for divorce. I told him that I am changing the locks on the house and he said that it was still his house and that he would stop paying the mortgage if I did. What are my legal rights? If I stop his mail and change the locks can he legally stop paying the mortgage?

Attorney answers (3)

  1. Yolanda Navarrete


    Contributor Level 20


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . He is not allowed to stop paying anything and he can't cancel anything. You can file a motion for continued support pending divorce. Before having his mail forwarded, find out what the bills and marital assets are. Make copies of anything you may need. Also, be sure to have money for retaining an attorney.

    Please be advised my answers to questions does not constitute legal advise and you should not rely on it, due to... more
  2. Stephanie Canas Hunnell

    Contributor Level 9


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . You have the right to seek court intervention, by way of filing a complaint and/or motion for temporary support and maintenance. Without a court order requiring him to pay these expenses, he can withhold payment without consequence. You should also get an order for exclusive use and possession of the home. If you are both on the deed, he has the right to come back and reenter the home. I really cannot give you any legal advise based on the information you have provided to determine what the level of support should be, which could be higher/lower than just the mortgage, tax and insurance. There would also be a child support component.

    If he is already threating to withhold payments, it is very important that you take action to file teh appropriate paperwork with the court to protect your rights. Do not wait until he stops paying to take action.

    It's important to consult with an attorney practicing matrimonial law in your area.

    All answers and information presented by HUNNELL LAW, LLC are intended to be used for educational or informational... more
  3. David Perry Davis

    Contributor Level 17


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . You're overdue for a consultation. I hope there haven't been a lot of financial games played in the last 11 months, but you're presumptively o the hook for any debt acquired up until the date that the complaint is filed. Living separately and paying support (like paying a mortgage) is NOT sufficient to cap the marital estate. If funds have vanished, you know have a more expensive fight on your hands than you would have had if you'd filed earlier. That's spilled milk at this point, but get to an attorney. Interview 2 or 3 of them, Google them, ask around, but ... don't wait any longer before retaining someone.

    As far as your specifics - you can sure change the locks. And he can call a lcoksmith and have them changed back (or changed again). I saw a couple go throw this literally 7 times - the locksmith joked that he had them on speed dial. If there's no DV, it's still his house if he's on the deed. Conversely, he has a duty to continue paying. What you both really need is to sit down with an attorney. If there's a religious or emotional resistance to filing for divorce (or insurance reasons to remain "married"), then file for a limited divorce / Bed and Board Divorce (like a legal separation), but get something in place so everyone understands their rights and responsibilities ASAP.


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Divorce is the process of formally ending a marriage. Divorces may be jointly agreed upon, resolved by negotiation, or decided in court.

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