Hmm let's have a little music with this post . . . Paul Carrack singing "Don't Shed any tears for me" . . . seems like a good accompaniment to this little heart breaker question posed yesterday about how to end a bad relationship. "Cab fare to nowhere is what you are . . . all that I saw in you I now see through . . . "
Here's the question: "How should I advise my client (friend?) to get rid of a free-loader BF (or GF?).
"Cab fare to nowhere is what you are . . . all that I saw in you I now see through"
Girlfriend ("GF") and Boyfriend ("BF") have lived together for years. Unmarried. The relationship goes South. (Can you spell "infidelity?" Oops and what about the risk of HPV?). BF lives in GF's house -- titled in her name. She pays the mortgage. During this short, passionate relationship, GF spends lots of money, mostly with credit cards in her own name only. He has no credit and he has no money and . . . gee . . . he seems to have an aversion to working. Most of GF's credit card purchases are for consumables . . . great meals out, great trips to exotic places. Some few purchases where for tangibles, few of which were for her. [He was a Ken doll and she dressed him. She bought him a great car . . . still in her name, though.]
"They" ran up a debt of $100,000 in GF's name only doing this. If a trial ever occurred, the evidence would show that GF routinely asked BF to pay "his share," and he routinely agreed that he'd pay soon, but he never did. A few emails exist from BF to GF, confirming that he'd pay half. GF is afraid that BF will be angry and violent when she asks him to move out. She has been advised by the police that they won't get involved, absent actual domestic violence, even though the house is titled in her name only, because "it is his home, too."
The questions asked are:
What are the best means or options to get BF out, both legally and practically? Can she evict him? (There's a problem there with notice, etc. and eviction could take as long as 30 days under landlord-tenant law. There is no written lease or anything, but he's made it his home with her consent for a long period).
The answer is offered by family lawyer C J Stevens of Missoula, Montana. Oh yes. I've got a great song for that part, too.
Listen to Helen Reddy singing the great Ray Charles tune Hit the Road Jack!
Hit the road Jack . . .
In Michigan, family lawyer Brian Sauer reports that under MCL 600.2918, a tenant, in this case, former girlfriend, can sue for unlawful interference with possessory interest for $200 or actual damages, whichever is greater. If the tenant is ejected in a forcible and unlawful manner, the suit can be for 3 times the amount of $200 or actual damages. In some cases, that may be a cheap solution, but nevertheless, great case would need to be taken to avoid damage, destruction or loss of GF's property during ejection. A PPO, if applicable, would deprive GF of a possessory interest, however.
John Rinn, family lawyer in Livonia, Michigan says: The Michigan "lockout" statute is MCL 600.2918. If she is a tenant, even a tenant by sufferance, she could recover damages if she is ejected by "self-help" of the owner. That would include changing the locks and a host of other things that are listed in the statute. There is a 1995 case that says that, for purposes of this statute, a tenant is a person who has an agreement to pay rent for the use of the property. However, that case was simply holding that the tenant's children were not to be considered tenants, so the children did not have a separate cause of action against the landlord. A court might very well hold that the girlfriend is a tenant. There is some very old case law that says that you can be a tenant by sufferance even if you don't actually have an agreement to pay rent. If seems pretty risky, legally speaking, to just lock her out. I have not done landlord/tenant law in many years, but I will bet that the attorneys who do handle it will tell you that the man in this case cannot just lock out the girlfriend. I believe that Chris Campbell concurs, based on citation of the statute.
CJ says: "Here's what my Order of Protection clients do. I advise them to prepare well. Work without stopping. Stopping leads to reconsidering that he's not such a bad guy, she's just hormonal, or she'll miss him too much." CJ's checklist:
- She password protects her entire computer(s)
- She makes some preliminary phone calls to trusted friends
- She obtains a Temporary Order of Protection
- She changes her post office box key
(Note, unhappy lovers have been known to ask the mail clerk to retrieve it, I left my key in my other purse/pants). Maybe she puts a hold on her mail with written instructions that only she is authorized to retrieve it. If mail is to the residence, definitely have it held re-routed to a new post office box.
[Want a larger copy of that USPS poster? Click on it and print.]
2. At the appointed time, she makes her follow-up phone calls.
3. At that point, her girlfriends and boyfriends come over. While they're with her . . .
4. A deputy serves her FBF with an order of protection.
- She tells FBF that he can get a civil standby to retrieve his belongings.
- The items will be at the end of the driveway by close of business today.
- Deputy removes him from the premises.
5. She and her friends
- Change all the locks
- Secure all the windows
- Secure the garage
- Change the garage door opener code
6. FGF packs up as much of FBF's personal effects as he will need for the next week and leaves it at the end of the drive. It won't be in the genuine leather suitcase unless he paid for it.
7. She and her friends move his personal property to the end of the drive.
- The car is not among them.
- Nothing else she purchased without repayment has to go down there either.
- If she's really nice, she copied everything on the laptop she paid for and leaves the CD down the drive. Otherwise, he shoulda backed it up, eh?
8. At least for that night, somebody stays with her.
9. She reports every single violation of the Temporary Order of Protection, no matter how slight they seem to her.
10. She hires an attorney for the Protection Order hearing.
For the Temporary Order of Protection, she will have to show reasonable apprehension of bodily harm. Emotional and mental abuse is considered bodily harm in Montana. If FBF's behavior interferes with FGF's work, sleep, studies . . . if her grades drop without another reasonable explanation, if her disturbed sleep causes the quality of her work to drop, if she's lost weight, had to see a doc for sleep meds or anti-depressants, for instance, that's is bodily harm. If the client reasonably believes that FBF would have become violent if she had merely told him to leave, that's reasonable apprehension of bodily harm in Montana.
The importance of making a safety plan
It is very important that victims of domestic abuse plan a safe way to leave the abusive relationship. Here is a link to the American Bar Association's page on Domestic Violence Safety Plans. It's a fact. The most dangerous time for the victim is when she is trying to leave the abusive relationship.