Frequently we have clients come to us after separation, when their ex partner has moved out and ask “what if my ex wants to come back to the home…?” and “can they come in and take what they want?” In this article we explore your rights if your ex wants to come back to collect belongings after he or she has left.
What if my ex wants to come back to the home to collect belongings after they have left?
If your ex partner wants to return to the home after separation to collect belongings or for any other reason, there is no law technically prohibiting them from doing so unless:
- There is a DVO in place preventing that person from attending the property
- There is a family court order in place granting the other person sole and exclusive occupation of the property.
Even if there is not a DVO or family court order in place, we strongly recommend against a party returning to the home post separation without consent of the person who occupies the property, as doing so is not only intimidating to the person occupying the property, but it could result in an incident of domestic violence occurring.
For this reason, when a client comes to us and tells us their ex wants to return to the property to collect belongings, we advise our clients that they have no obligation to allow them to return, if they do not feel comfortable with them doing so. Whilst you may not have an order preventing them from attending, you have a right to privacy, and that right is invaded if the other person comes and goes from the property you now solely occupy as they please, in order to take what they please. Your right to feel safe and to have a private space away from your ex partner, is interfered with, if your ex, without your consent, threatens to return to the property to collect belongings or for any reason.
If your ex ignores you when you tell them you do not agree to them returning to the property to collect belongings, we recommend you seek legal advice from us about what to do in your individual circumstances. We can also advise you about whether a protection order is necessary and desirable, to protect you, in the circumstances of your case. You may also wish to consider changing the locks if your ex partner ignores your request that they not return.
If your ex says ‘I have a right to return to the property as my name is on the title’ or words to that affect and intends to return to the property immediately to collect belongings, we recommend you book an urgent appointment with one of our experienced family lawyers, to discuss your individual circumstances.
To minimise the conflict between parties post separation, we suggest reaching an agreement with your ex partner, about the return of personal items, unless there is a good reason. This can be done by delivering the items to them, or arranging a courier to deliver them, if you do not feel comfortable with them attending the property after separation.
If however you agree to your ex returning to the property to collect belongings, we recommend that you assert clear boundaries to your ex partner, about the circumstances of them returning, including:
- Give them a time and date (or a couple of options as to a time and date) that they can attend the property;
- Clearly communicate that agreed time and date that they can return, to them;
- Communicate and agree prior to them returning, the reason for their return – e.g. if it is to collect personal property, have a list of personal property that is agreed upon prior. This avoids them rampaging the house and taking what they please if there is a clear agreement as to what they are taking that is reached in advance;
- Agree upon the method of the items being returned – i.e. whether they are to be collected from outside or inside the house.
- You do not have to agree to them entering the house. You might prefer to gather up the personal belongings prior to their attendance and leave them at the front door, to avoid you having to see them and them having to enter the house;
- Agree upon who is to be present at the time of collection of the items. The last thing you want is for the other party to turn up to the house with an entourage of people who may perpetuate abuse towards you at the time the items are being collected.
- Ensure that the agreement you reach as to the time/date and items to be collected, how they are to be collected (e.g. outside or inside the house) and who is to be present is all in writing so it may be shown to police if they are in attendance at the time.
- Consider having a third party friend or even a police officer present, if you are feeling intimidated by the other party, to ensure there is no untoward behaviour when they attend the house.
What if my ex won’t let me collect belongings after I have left the home?
As above, we recommend that you communicate with your ex partner and obtain an agreement as to the time and date to collect your personal belongings. This includes having an agreement before you attend the house as to what you are taking.
If however your ex is refusing to allow you to collect belongings, we recommend you obtain legal advice about what to do in your individual circumstances.
In most cases, these issues are resolved through legal correspondence, wherein the parties are eventually able to agree upon a time for attending the property, and what items are to be collected.
In the event that an agreement cannot be reached for you to collect your personal belongings via legal correspondence, then a court application may be required. You should seek legal advice about whether this is necessary and cost effective in your individual circumstances.
Want more information about whether my ex can collect belongings after they have left the home?
Every situation is unique. If you are unsure of your rights in your individual circumstances, get in contact with us and book a reduced rate initial consultation with one of our family law experts, to discuss your individual circumstances.