Can my wife lock me out of our home?

Question:Cordell & Cordell attorney Andrea Miller

My wife and I had an apartment to which she was the main lease holder. While I was at work one day she had the apartment complex change the locks and take me off the lease leaving me with nowhere to go and leaving all my stuff locked in the apartment. Is that legal?


Unfortunately, I do not practice in Georgia and therefore my analysis will focus on North Carolina law and how North Carolina may deal with the issue.  Cordell & Cordell has offices in Georgia and I would encourage you to call one of the attorneys there so that they may advise you on the specifics of Georgia law. This sort of issue is state specific so I urge you to contact an attorney in our Georgia office.

In North Carolina, once a party moves out of a residence, the party who remains in the home can change the locks.  However, the party must have moved out.  In your situation, it seems that you merely went to work and you were planning on coming back home. In North Carolina, that is inappropriate conduct and could be construed by the courts as abandonment and/or malicious turning one out of doors.

In North Carolina, you can file what is called a Divorce from Bed and Board, which allows a party who can prove maliciously turning one out of doors or abandonment the right to a judicial separation. You may be able to petition the court to get some of your belongings out of the home at that time. However, North Carolina is one of the few states that have this particular remedy.

As I said previously, this issue is handled differently by different states and I would seek an attorney in Georgia so they can discuss what legal options you have. Be advised that my answering of this question does not create an attorney-client relationship.


Andrea Miller is a Staff Attorney in the Charlotte, N.C., office of Cordell & Cordell where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Miller is licensed in the state of North Carolina. Ms. Miller received her undergraduate degree in History and her Juris Doctor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  While in law school, she on the Client Counseling Team for Moot Court and became a board member. Ms. Miller also participated in UNC’s Legal Assistance Clinic whereby she helped represent indigent clients obtain legal counsel primarily in the area of domestic relations.

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One comment on “Can my wife lock me out of our home?

    Malicious turnig out of doors
    I recently completed a DVPO and wanted to move back into my house. It has always been stated that I would move back into the house. My spouse told me if I returned that she would move her and the kids out and turn off all the utilities to the house. I don’t want that. What legal rights do I have to move back into my house?

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