How to Move Your Spouse's Possessions in a Divorce
By Beverly Bird
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The concept of an amicable divorce is something of an oxymoron -- if you and your spouse got along well, you might not be ending your marriage. However, there’s a lot to be said for a peaceful divorce, even when amicable is out of the question. Often, it’s the little things, like how you move your spouse’s possessions out of the home, that set the emotional tone for the entire divorce. They can make the difference between a long, bitter battle or a relatively quick settlement.
Personalty Vs. Assets
Legally, all marital property that is not real estate is personal property. Personal property includes everything from investment accounts to your hairbrush. Personalty falls under the umbrella of personal property; it's all the little things you've accumulated during your lifetime, such as the hairbrush. It includes clothing, books, CDs, DVDs and the like. It can include your personal computer or small kitchen appliances. In a divorce, a spouse is entitled to retain his own personalty, unless an individual item has remarkable value. For example, a $10,000 Rolex watch is personalty to the spouse who wears it every day but, if he purchased it with $10,000 of marital funds, it’s also a marital asset and it's value is subject to division in a divorce.
Use of Assets Pending Divorce
If you and your spouse are on speaking terms, your first order of business should be deciding what items qualify as his personalty and which are marital assets. You can place small assets like the Rolex in a safe deposit box pending the divorce or you can document their existence by photographing them and storing the photos with receipts from their purchase, if you still have them. If you want to remain on amicable terms with your spouse, there may be no need to deny him the pleasure of wearing the watch until after your divorce is final and your assets are distributed between you. However, you should have proof of its existence in case your divorce proceedings become bitter and it suddenly “disappears.”
Ask your spouse to make a list of everything he wants, then review the list to determine if it includes anything you view as "ours," not his. You probably won’t have much use for his favorite jeans or his basketball, but you might not want to relinquish the espresso maker both of you used every day during your marriage. If you own a similar item that he also wants, one of you can take the espresso maker and the other can take the other possession. Alternatively, you can agree that you’ll purchase a second espresso maker from joint funds. You can usually replace such personalty relatively cheaply. Before you begin arguing over an item, ask yourself what the fight might ultimately cost you in legal fees versus what a new appliance will cost.
Read More: Penalty for Hiding Assets in a Divorce
Making the Transfer
After you determine what personalty your spouse will take, you must decide how you’re going to move it into his possession. If you're feeling generous, you can box everything up for him, according to his list, and drop it off at his new residence. If the boxes are heavy or cumbersome, or if they include things you don’t want to risk breaking, you can ask him to pick them up. You can also allow your spouse to come over and gather everything himself. If your relationship is civil, you can oversee this process. If not, you can ask a family member or close friend to do so, either together with you or on her own. Even if your divorce is friendly, don't leave your spouse alone in your home. There's always the potential for warfare later so you won't want him snooping for things he can use against you. He might also take something he "forgot" to list and you don't want to give up.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.