What to do first?

My sister’s husband disappeared during the work day for two and a half days. As far as my sister knew, everything was fine. They had lunch out that day and he went back to his job after which no one heard from him. When he wasn’t home late that night, so she drove around for hours and hours looking for him. After 26 hours, she reported him missing as this was completely abnormal behavior and they regularly talked by cell phone. His cell phone had been shut off. After 48+ hours, she was frantic and the detectives put out a bolo alert for him and subsequently opened an investigation. There’s a lot more to it, but he finally called and said he was out “having a good time.” My question is: Other than changing the locks, how can she keep him from coming to the house and taking things while she’s not there before she has a separation agreement in place? He and his family live all around and they are driving by waiting for her to leave. She has called the Sheriff once before for a similar situation, but they told her it was his house too and allowed him to get items and equipment. Before that episode, he had come over while she was away and ransacked the house. I understand he’s allowed to pick up his personal belongings and work-related items, but she made it clear he can’t come when she’s not there. I fear for her safety. She lives way out in the country and the roads are currently covered with ice and she is without a 4-wheel drive vehicle. I have advised her to take pictures of items, but I don’t know what else to do until she can contact a lawyer which will also be a problem because he has overdrawn their account by $1700 and she has little money of her own. She’s currently attending college and is only employed as an intern making minimal money. Thank you.

The sheriff was correct. Unless the parties agree to voluntarily separate, she cannot simply change the locks and kick him out. He has as much right to be in the house as he does. She can attempt to file a claim for divorce from bed and board, and request that the court evict him, but some judges will not order a party to vacate the marital residence.

If he is removing property from the marital residence and establishing a new residence, she can then change the locks. She should make an inventory of the personal property. When the court divides property through a equitable distribution claim, assets are generally divided 50/50 unless there are equitable distribution factors which lead the court to believe that one party deserves a larger portion of the marital estate. Therefore, even if he removes items from the residence, she should be compensated with other marital property through the equitable distribution process.