You web browser may not be properly supported. To use this site and all its features we recommend using the latest versions of Chrome, Safari or Firefox

Istock 475237296 Blog

Can I change the locks?” – This must be one of the most common questions addressed by any family lawyer.

The simple answer to whether a party going through separation can change the locks on a property they are living in is usually “yes”. If there is no court order which affects that person’s right to occupy the property, then in most circumstances there is little prohibiting a party from changing the locks. However the position can differ slightly depending on, which party legally owns the property.

Where the property is owned by both parties

  • Both proprietors have the right to change the locks.
  • If you change the locks, your spouse is entitled regain access to the property without your consent.

Where the property is owned by one party

  • The owner of the property has the right to change the locks.
  • It may be best for the party who does not own the property to seek the other party’s consent or provide notice to the other party of their intent to change the locks.

Where the property is leased to you

  • You should obtain the landlord’s consent. The landlord cannot unreasonably withhold their consent.
  • You may be obliged to provide a spare key to the landlord and any other tenants named on the lease (unless one of the tenants is excluded under a safety notice or intervention order).

In all circumstances

  • The Family Courts can make decisions about who occupies the property – either in the short term or permanently.
  • A safety notice or intervention order may prohibit a party from attending the property, thereby providing the other party with the right to sole occupancy, and the right to change the locks.
  • If you have concerns for your safety you should contact the police and they may make an application for an intervention order on your behalf or refer you to the Magistrates’ Court to make your own application (you can ask a lawyer to help you with your own application).

Perhaps the question asked should not be “Can I change the locks?” but “Should I change the locks?” There are several things to consider about whether you should change the locks to your residence upon separation.

The benefits are obvious – personal security, privacy and the assurance of knowing that the items in your property will be there when you get home. However, it is also important to consider the following:

  • Are you concerned about your or another occupant’s safety?
  • Has the other party already moved out of the property or are you looking to lock them out?
  • Does the other party require access to collect their belongings or for some other purposes (for example, property maintenance or preparing the property for sale)?
  • Does the other party have somewhere else they can live?
  • Do you have an agreement about who is responsible for the mortgage repayments or rent?
  • Will changing the locks frustrate negotiations of your property settlement or parenting arrangements?

Whether you can and should change the locks usually depends on your circumstances and you should seek legal advice before doing so.

Thank you for your feedback.

Related blog posts

Family Law
Is your inheritance protected?

Once you have made the choice to separate, it is likely you have started the difficult process of deciding how to divide your assets. For most people, this process begins with a ‘yours’ and ‘mine’ approach, whereby you separate assets into certain baskets depending on who they belong to. Regardless of your process, it is vital at this stage to receive legal advice to ascertain exactly what it is you are entitled to. It is possible what you want, and what you are entitled to, may be two very different realities. The Family Law Act gives the family courts broad discretion to make orders in relation to financial cases, including orders for dividing assets between parties. Whether you...

Istock 476824114 Blog
Family Law
Four key facts you need to know about your property settlement

When a marriage or a de facto relationship ends, the parties need to finalise their financial ties with one another. This may involve the transfer of ownership of real estate, cash, superannuation or other property from one party to another. For example, if the matrimonial home is in joint names the parties may agree that the house be sold and the proceeds divided. Alternatively, the parties may agree that one party receives the house and makes a cash payment of some nature to the other party to ‘buy out’ their interest. When you are separating, it is important to get legal advice from a Solicitor specialising in family law, in order to determine your entitlements. Any agreement reached...

105625090 Blog
Family Law
Call for urgent statutory reform regarding children with gender dysphoria

Intelligent and insightful teenager Lucas, had the support of his (separated) parents, psychologist, psychiatrist and endocrinologist to undergo stage two treatment for gender dysphoria. Yet, as a result of the 2013 decision Re Jamie, Lucas had to obtain permission from the Family Court so that he could start stage two treatment under the guise of assessing whether Lucas was ‘Gillick competent’. Gender dysphoria is a condition in which a child feels their identity and gender are not matched with his or her biological sex. Because of this, the child can suffer clinically significant distress or impairment in social functioning. The Court in Re Jamie decided that stage two treatment for...

Blog Call For Urgent Statutory Reform Regarding Children With Gender Dysphoria

We're here to help

Start your online claim check now. Or, if you have a question, get in touch with our team.