Hello my name is Jessica Woll and I have been practicing divorce and family law for close to two decades. The job has taught me a great deal about human beings going through what is often one of the worst experiences in their lives. In my blog I will share my client’s stories, while maintaining their right to privacy. I will offer advice, tips and insights based upon these stories. I hope that you find the information beneficial.
For my third posting, I will briefly discuss the issue of possession of personal property during divorce.
We have all heard the saying that possession is 9/10ths of the law. Is that statement really true when it comes to divorce?
I had a client we shall call Shirley. Her husband Steve moved out of the marital home in a nice suburban neighborhood to take up residence with a woman living down the street. He left Shirley and their two children and then filed for divorce. When he left his home, he took only a suitcase full of clothing and left the majority of his possessions behind at his house for collection at a later date.
Naturally, Shirley was unhappy about her husband’s infidelity, betrayal and what she believed to be abandonment of the family.
The divorce settlement included the division of the couple’s personal property. Shirley and Steve divided everything from the fine china to the family photos. The Judgment of Divorce even including a provision specifying when Steve could pick up his share of the property – May 1st – what time – 10:00 a.m. – and from what location – the former marital home’s driveway.
It happened to rain on May 1st so Shirley, being the thoughtful person she is, decided to place all of Steve’s worldly possession on the porch – to allegedly keep the items dry!
But alas, Purple Heart was making house calls in the neighborhood that day and they mistakenly took all of Steve’s property during a scheduled pick up of items from across the street. OOPS!
Karmic debt? Coincidence? Divine Intervention? Or an act carried out by the ex-wife? The world will never know…
What can you do in your case to ensure that you receive your fair share of the property? Here are a few points to remember:
1. If you are afraid your spouse might damage, destroy or dissipate marital property, get a court order that prohibits such behavior. In Michigan such an order is called a Mutual Property Restraining Order. Since the order is mutual, it keeps both parties in line.
2. Videotape the contents of your home or take pictures if you must move out of the house before you can agree on the division of your property with your spouse.
3. If you are seriously afraid that your spouse may damage rare or fragile items of property, remove them for safe keeping. You can always let your husband or wife know that you are aware the property is subject to division at a later date but you are just putting the items away for safe keeping.
4. Remember gifts, clothing, jewelry, sporting equipment, inherited items and other personalty is not usually considered marital property. A wife does not have to share her Rolex with her husband or a portrait of her family from the 1800’s handed down from generation to generation. Similarly, the wife will not share in the value of her husband’s golf clubs or his favorite leather jacket.
5. Most importantly, never agree to allow your spouse to leave your share of the marital property on the drive way on a specified day for pick up even if it is not raining.