What does the law say about changing the locks?

Door handle with keys in the lock

What does the law say? 

If you are married to your partner, the home you share is called the matrimonial home. According to the law in Ontario, you each have equal rights to occupy the home, regardless of whose name is on the deed or the lease. An exception would be a court order or legal agreement stating otherwise. This means you cannot legally change the locks on the house just because your partner has moved out. 

If you have been living in a common-law relationship, the occupation of the home you have been sharing legally belongs to whichever one of you has your name on the deed or mortgage. If both of your names are on either of these documents, then you both have a legal right to remain in the home. Even if your name is not on the deed or lease, you may be able to remain in the home. 

If you are an Ontario woman in or thinking about leaving an abusive relationship, or if you have already left one and you want to know more about family law and court, our Family Court and Beyond website is for you – even if you have already started to deal with your family law issues. 

While this resource is specific to Ontario, and laws are different from province/territory to province/territory, you may find other information that will be useful even if you don’t live in Ontario. 


Women’s Organizations can order print copies for their clients! 

Women’s organizations in Ontario can order print copies of the Family Court and Beyond Workbook and Organizer for their clients. 

Ten copies of the Workbook are $175. The 8.5″ x 11″ spiral Workbook is packed with almost 200 pages of legal information, worksheets, factsheets, and tips. 

Ten copies of the Organizer are $70. The 6″ x 9″ spiral bound Organizer consists of checklists, worksheets, an appointment log, a calendar, and a list of relevant Ontario services.