Can a spouse legally prevent entry into a jointly owned home?

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Can a spouse legally prevent entry into a jointly owned home?

A friend of mine left her abusive husband after having her life threatened. She had to leave quickly, and left many of her things behind. She’s been able to get some things but several remain. Her husband just tacked a note on their house’s door stating that she is no longer allowed entry. He’s also begun to sell off her possessions, some not fully paid for. Can he prevent her from entering the house when its in both their names? Does she have legal cause to press charges of theft and/or sale of stolen property since he’s begun to sell her things?

Asked on August 7, 2011 Pennsylvania

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Your friend needs to get an attorney and get an order from the court stopping her husband from dissipating marital assets or converting separate property.  No, he can not deny her access to the marital home unless he has an order allowing him to have sole occupancy pending the finalization of the divorce or an agreement between the two of you as to that issue.  But I would not tell her to go and break down the door alone.  She needs muscle behind her (legal muscle please).  During the divorce process she can bring up the selling of her things and ask that the court compensate her for that when deciding the distribution of the marital assets.  Good luck.


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