A Maryland divorce can take some time to complete. Especially in situations where the parties are not on good terms with one another, a divorce is not likely to be granted quickly. Before the final decree is entered and the court permanently separates the affairs and property of the former couple, several months may pass.

Parties who are not getting along at the time the divorce petition is filed may not get along during the pendency of the divorce, either. Maryland courts will routinely enter temporary orders to assist with protecting the divorcing couple from one another. This can include orders temporarily awarding the marital home to one spouse or the other.

Awarding Temporary Possession of the Marital Home

There are two ways by which the marital home in a divorce can be awarded to you or your ex-spouse while the divorce plays out. 

First, you and your ex are free to agree among yourselves on who gets to live in and use the marital home while the divorce is pending. So long as there is no obvious reason not to follow the agreement, courts will typically honor such arrangements.

If you and your ex cannot agree on who should temporarily reside in the marital home, either you or your ex can file a motion with the court and ask for a court order. The court will examine various facets of the situation, including whether there is any domestic violence and who is the primary caregiver of any children, in making its decision.

Once granted, the court’s order awarding possession of the marital home is valid only until it is later modified or superseded by the final divorce decree.

Obtaining a Court Order Awarding Possession of the Home

Just because you have possession of the marital home or that your having such possession is in your child’s best interests does not necessarily mean your ex will agree with this arrangement. 

If your ex is upset about not having the home, they may refuse to leave it voluntarily. In this situation, you may need to consider formally evicting your ex.

Eviction Process

Eviction is a legal process that ends with the forcible removal of an occupant of a dwelling or other structure. 

Even when you have the sole and exclusive right to possess a residence or other property, you cannot simply throw out someone who has been living there or occupying the property. Instead, you must go through the eviction process.

A petition is filed with your local court, and notice of your intent to evict the other party from the property is given to that other person. At a court hearing, the court determines whether eviction is proper and will issue an appropriate order. At this point, if the other party remains within the property, the local sheriff will forcibly remove them.

Divorcing Couples Should Obtain a Court Order

In a contentious divorce, one spouse or the other may be inclined to take immediate action against the other to exclude them from the marital home. For instance, you may wait until your ex is away from the home before changing the locks and entry codes so they cannot return. You might also throw their personal belongings out of the house.

Such actions may be cathartic, but they might also be illegal. Both you and your spouse have a possessory interest in the marital home, and this interest does not go away simply because you physically prevent them from returning to the home. This course of action can lead to legal action being taken against you.

Instead, if you seek exclusive possession of the marital home while your divorce is pending, it is essential that you obtain a court order to that effect. You can do so by either seeking a temporary order through your divorce case or by filing a formal eviction process.

Once you have this order, you can enforce it against your ex. This order gives you the ability to change the locks on the home or have law enforcement remove them from the property. 

You should note, however, that you still may not destroy their personal property. If they are not allowed to retrieve their clothing and other personal effects, you may be responsible for safeguarding such property.

Obtaining Temporary Possession With Help From Blattner Family Law Group

If you have not yet filed for divorce, or if your divorce is still pending, you may be able to obtain exclusive possession of the marital home. Blattner Family Law Group and our experienced Maryland divorce lawyers can help you obtain the necessary order to allow this. Contact us and request a free consultation to discuss your options.