Get Out of My House! A Primer For Married and Un-Married Couples

Get Out of My House! A Primer For Married and Un-Married Couples

Ending a relationship with a separation or ending a marriage with a divorce, whether it is in Howard County or elsewhere in the State of Maryland, presents challenges, especially when the two of you are living in the same home. Perhaps both of you own it, or perhaps only one of you owns it.

If you do not want to leave your home, can you get your spouse or partner out of the home?

Would it be cliché to say “it depends?”

Let’s look at a few scenarios and how they play out.

Scenario 1: Married couple, owns a house jointly, called tenants by the entirety.

One spouse wants the other one to leave the house. The short answer is that it is not going to happen involuntarily, except under the 2 following scenarios: (1) a domestic violence protective order kicks one of them out of the house, or (2) a court, in a custody/divorce action, awards use and possession of the house to one of them. The former is an extreme court action. The latter is likely only going to occur if they are already separated. Courts do not like to throw someone out of the house when they are still living together. There is a little “trick” that some divorce attorneys have used in various jurisdictions, like Howard, Montgomery and Baltimore counties, with mixed results. The trick is about a month before a hearing, one of the spouses will move out into a hotel or with a friend, but at the initial pendente lite hearing, will ask for use and possession of the home. The trick has been known to work in Montgomery County, depending on the judge or master, but not all of the time and not in all jurisdictions.

Scenario 2: Married couple, only one of them owns the house.

This scenario has been the subject of many conflicting court decisions. On the one hand, there is often an aspect of marital property to a home, regardless of how it is titled. On the other hand, some courts will view the property by title. Aside from the methods in Scenario 1, the owner of the home can go to rent court to have the other spouse evicted from the home, as any renter would be evicted. How do you like that answer? Most judges don’t. But a few do, so you need to know your judge.

Scenario 3: Not married couple, owns a house together, either as tenants in common or joint tenants with rights of survivorship.

Again, start with the concepts in Scenario 1, but here, since they are not married, either one can ask the Court to immediately put the house up for sale by filing a Complaint for Sale of Real Property in Lieu of Partition. The Court all too often grants this requests, appoints a Trustee, sells the house and splits the proceeds of the house equally. What? You say that one of you put more into the house than the other? Well, as we say, you can “tell it to the judge,” but don’t expect a miracle.

Scenario 4: Not married couple, only one of them owns the house.

This is the most harsh scenario. The owner of the house might just change the locks and put the other person’s property on the curb. Is that legal? More often than not, yes, unless the other tenant has been helping with the payments to the point of being called a co-tenant or renter. The owner could also waltz into correct, asking that the other spouse’s “tenant” rights be terminated, paving the way to evict that person. Sounds pretty merciless.

All of these scenarios are extremely common.

So, what should you do if your relationship is ending, and a decision has to be made as to who should leave the home? The bottom line is that there is never a substitute for consulting with an experienced divorce attorney. At SIEGELLAW, that initial consultation is free.


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