How to Recover Personal Items After Spouse Took Property
Divorce involves a wide range of issues, from the serious to the seemingly mundane. Many people can become extremely petty in divorce, given the strained relationships and highly charged emotions involved. While attorneys and the court are generally meant to be utilized to resolve larger-scale issues like division of real estate and child custody, how do parties divide up their valued personal property upon divorce? Below we discuss how to deal with personal property in a divorce and what happens when one spouse refuses to play ball. If you are facing property division or other New Jersey family law issues, reach out to a seasoned New Jersey divorce attorney for assistance.
Preparing for Dividing Personal Items
Court proceedings dealing with the equitable division of property are generally meant to cover more valuable assets, including real estate, cars, bank accounts, and others. For smaller, personal items, typically those worth $500 or less, divorcing parties should endeavor to resolve division on their own. Your attorney will certainly still be a valuable resource for dealing with dividing up personal items, but ideally the matter can be resolved outside of court.
Prepare a list. When preparing for divorce, draw up a list of every single item of personal property that matters to you. Personal property may cover things like electronics, clothing, family heirlooms, home appliances, and furniture, among other things. Typically, parties will exchange their lists before engaging in mediation or settlement discussions. Settlement negotiations can include apportionment of these personal items; in many cases, personal items can be a useful bargaining chip to obtain other advantages in divorce discussions.
Voluntary delivery: You or a third party. Ideally, you and your spouse will be able to come to an agreement on who gets which personal items. Then, the parties can voluntarily exchange the items. For example, assuming the court has not issued a protective order preventing one spouse from returning to the marital home, the spouse who moved out can return to the house to pick up their property and drop off anything they took. If emotions are likely to get heated, relying on a friend, family member, or another third party to make the exchange may be a wiser move.
What if My Spouse Refuses to Hand Over My Property?
If you and your spouse simply cannot agree on the division of personal property, you might need to take the matter to a mediator or to court. The parties may reach a settlement, or they may ultimately rely on the court to make a final decision on particular items. The parties should narrow down their dispute to as few items as possible before taking the matter to court. The parties may even seek a court order concerning how the property will be delivered (i.e., how much notice one party must give the other before showing up to collect personal property, or whether the presence of a third party is required).
If your personal property division becomes the subject of a court order, you and your spouse are now legally obligated to exchange the covered property. If one party refuses to hand over the property in violation of the court’s order, they could be subject to fines and other penalties. Violating a court order could land a party in “contempt of court,” which is even punishable by jail time. Work with third parties and your attorney to facilitate the transfer of property, and if all else fails, go to court. When you follow the proper legal process and your ex does not, you are in a much stronger position to get what you want out of the separation.
Considered Advice and Dedicated Representation for Your New Jersey Property Division Matter
If you need professional and talented legal help with property division, divorce mediation, paternity, child custody, premarital agreements, child support, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the Union offices of family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro at 908-964-0102.