If a spouse attempts to return to the marriage home after leaving their spouse, they may be barred from doing so. If the person attempts to get on the property or in the home after being told no, it may be a violation of North Carolina’s domestic criminal trespass statute. Criminal trespass can play a huge role in domestic relations and family law cases.
The domestic criminal trespass statute provides that once separate places of residence have been established, it is a Class 1 misdemeanor for any person, either a present or former spouse or a person with whom the lawful occupant has lived as if married, to enter upon the premises of the lawful occupant or to remain after being ordered to leave by the lawful occupant The domestic relations criminal trespass statute also provides that evidence that the parties are living apart can include a judicial order of separation; a Court Order directing the person to stay away from the premises occupied by the lawful resident; an agreement between the complainant and the person charged that they shall live separate and apart, and they actually are living separate and apart (the agreement can be verbal or written); or separate places of residence.
The domestic criminal trespass statute can be incredibly important in family law cases. It you are married but separated, or have previously been married, and your spouse tells you not to come back on the property, you must comply. Even if you own the property jointly, you are required to obey the other person’s request or face serious legal penalties. If something is needed from the home and your spouse (or former spouse) does not willingly give it back, you cannot simply take it.
There are exceptions in this statute for persons entering upon the premises pursuant to a judicial order or separation agreement; for example, where the court order provides the right for visitation with minor children or other legal purposes. As a result, this statute has become incredibly important for lawyers to consider when drafting separation agreements or for judges to consider in court orders.