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Do I lose my legal rights if I move out of the family home?

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As family lawyers this is one of the questions we are most frequently asked – and the simple answer is “no”.

Going through a separation can be an emotional and stressful time and even more so when you are still living under the same roof.  More often than not, the time will come for one of you to move out of the family home – but how does this affect your rights? 

If you have moved out

The law is quite clear that where the property is jointly owned, each of you is permitted to enter that property without conditions.  This is the case even if one of you has moved out following the separation.  Ideally however, the person who has moved out should respect the right to privacy of their ex-partner.  If they need to return to collect personal belongings, it is best that this is done by arrangement with the former spouse rather than turning up unannounced.

Changing the locks

Changing the locks will not necessarily prevent your former partner from entering the house.  Remember that the property is jointly owned and as such they have the right to return and can legally “break in” in order to gain access.  Of course there are limitations to that, as they cannot behave in such a way as to cause a breach of the peace, as there could then be criminal sanctions.

Access to the family home is a sensitive issue and it is not advisable either to change the locks or force entry without having obtained legal advice first.

Financial Claims

Leaving the property will not result in you losing the right to have a “fair share” of the house in the divorce settlement. Separating couples have various financial claims they can make against their spouse upon divorce, including the transfer or sale of the home, pension sharing and claims for child and spousal maintenance.  These claims exist whether or not the marital assets are owned jointly or in one spouses name and claims do not depend upon whether you are physically living in the family home.

Most often the divorce settlement you will receive will be decided after a combination of factors have been considered.  These factors include amongst others:

(a) the income and earning capacity of each spouse;

(b) the needs of dependent children;

 (c) the length of the marriage and standard of living.

Whether you are still living in the house or have moved out has little or no bearing on the outcome of the divorce settlement.

Very often the decision to move out comes from necessity, if the relationship between you and your spouse is particularly acrimonious or you are a victim of domestic abuse. 

If you are going through a relationship breakdown, or want some advice before considering separation or divorce please contact one of our specialist family lawyers at Emery Johnson Astills on 0116 255 4855