The Case of the Changed Locks
Dallas high-net-worth divorce attorney, Mark Scroggins, explains a situation involving a marriage’s unfortunate outcome of changing locks on each other in this ReelTroubles episode.
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So I’m at work talking to my wife on the phone and things get a little heated. Let’s just say I’m trying to explain to her that she can’t stay married to me and see this starving artist boyfriend of hers, to which she replies that I can’t control what she does and she swears. I don’t think I can say that, the words that she used, and she hung up on me. And then when I get home I find that she’s thrown my clothes on the lawn. And changed the locks. I can’t make it in the house. So I want to know, what are my rights? What can I do?
You know, in that situation my recommendation on what to do would be dependent on a couple of different issues. One, do they have kids at home and is he concerned that if he goes in the house, that it’s going to blow up and it’s going to create this blowup in front of the kids. If he is, my suggestion would be don’t go into the house. You know, call me and we’ll go in. We’ll turn around and file a temporary restraining order. We’ll get those locks taken off, and we’ll find a way to get him back in the house.
Now, he has just as much right to be in that house as she does. Just as much right. So what can he do? Well he can call the cops and the police may or may not help you. It depends on where you are. Sometimes the police will go and knock on the door and say hey, you can’t keep him out. You know, you all are married and there aren’t any court orders that say that he can’t be there, and you’re not alleging that there has been any kind of physical abuse where we can take him away. So he is just as entitled to be there as you are.
Now as many of us in this profession know, the police do not like to get involved in that situation very often. So the other thing is, you know, if you’re dead set on it, you can always hire a locksmith. Go have him pop the locks and go on in, but you got to be concerned about placing yourself in danger. And I’m not necessarily talking about physical danger, but I’m talking about legal danger. I can’t tell you how many times I have been contacted in a situation where something has escalated and the other spouse makes a call to the police and all of the sudden there are trumped up charges of some sort of physical abuse, and then you’re facing family violence charges. Good Lord, you don’t want to deal with that.
So the prudent move is to pick up the phone and call your attorney. If you don’t have an attorney, call me and say Mark, what do I do in this situation? And we’ll talk about, you know, what’s going on right now? What are the facts? And what do we do so you don’t put yourself in harm’s way?