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Can a Spouse Throw Out My Belongings During a Divorce?

What happens to my stuff during a divorce? This is a simple question that has a lot of possible answers. In short, none of us want to risk losing our personal belongings during a divorce. There is so much up in the air during a divorce that controlling as much as we can is a sensible goal. However, we can only be in so many places at one time. If you can’t trust your spouse with your things, what options do you have? Should you kiss goodbye to any property not nailed down to the floor?

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan knows how to help in a situation like this. How can we be so sure? Our attorneys help people just like you in every stage of divorce. Before your divorce begins it is reasonable to want to know what happens with your personal belongings during a divorce. On top of that, there is no telling how to protect your things once you leave the house for any reason. Fortunately, our attorneys are here to help. After reading today’s blog post, please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan with any questions you have.  

What happens to stuff during the divorce?

You and your spouse are going through a rough patch in your marriage. Not sure how it’s going to turn out, but you are optimistic. You’ve had difficulties in the marriage before. This is just one of those times when your patience and communication skills are put to the test. Working with your spouse on tough problems is what marriage is all about, right? So, you come home from work one day and have a plan for figuring out these problems. Eager to share the plan with your spouse you turn the back doorknob and take a few steps inside. 

Immediately you notice something is missing. Well, not so much something as someone. Your wife works from home most days. She is always there when you get home from work. Not today, however. The sounds of the house are usually reverberating off the walls. Music, the television, the sound of your wife’s voice on a conference call. It is very rarely silent when you get home. However, today that is your exact experience. 

Looking around the house you find that the house looks the same, however. Everything is in its place. It’s just that nothing is turned on. The house sounds different and therefore it feels different. It’s tough to explain but it is the reality of the situation. Something is just different about the house. You can feel like something strange is about to occur. Then, a knock at the door tells you exactly what that “strange” occurrence is. 

A knock on the door announces the end of your marriage

You hustle to the door and find a law enforcement officer standing there. A bit sheepishly at that. He’s not there to ask you about a crime that was committed. He’s there to serve you with divorce papers. His face is solemn and he does not make eye contact with you. He is there to do his job and no more than that. He asks your name. You tell him that’s you. The papers are in your hands. He leaves. You shut the door and that quiet in your somehow becomes deafening. 

Your wife finally pulled the trigger on this divorce. It’s not like you couldn’t see it coming. Being honest with yourself it was something that made sense on some levels. You and she were not happy. You hadn’t been happy in some time. There were nearly constant disagreements on any number of subjects. Some trivial and some not. However, you figured that the good outweighed the bad enough to keep her in the marriage. That you wouldn’t need to worry about a divorce.

Now you realize that those thoughts were a coping mechanism for a divorce that should have felt closer than it did. What to do now? Where do you go from here? You wish that your wife would call you back or respond to your text messages. That she won’t make you feel like you’re already divorced. Are you already divorced? So many questions that you need answers to. 

Where to turn when you have more questions than answers?

It is a helpless feeling when you have more questions than answers. A divorce is something that is simultaneously clarifying and confusing. It is clarifying because you understand how your spouse views your relationship. There are no more doubts about what she wants versus what you want. She wants out and it does not matter what you want. That a divorce has already started tells us that she wants to end the marriage. 

On the other hand, the divorce is also confusing. All of the details about a divorce are unknown at this point. There is no doubt that you are in for an experience that you would prefer to miss. However, a divorce is something that you had better participate in. Not doing so would be to your detriment. You’ve heard stories of spouses who did not respond to the divorce filing and suffered as a result. You don’t want that to be you. 

When you have more questions than answers and confusion rule the day it is time to get information that you can trust. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are here to provide you with that information. We do so on our blog post each day of the week. We post entertaining and informative blogs on family law each day of the week. However, we also offer free of charge consultations with skilled attorneys six days a week. To schedule a consultation please contact us today.

What does it mean to have a divorce filed against you?

Let’s run through some quick questions and answers before we discuss your property and its safety. First, when you or your spouse file for divorce that does not mean that you are divorced. A divorce petition simply means that one of you has informed the court that you intend to divorce your spouse. One of you must then provide notice to the other person via a process server or law enforcement officer. 

A divorce is not over until you, your spouse, and a judge sign your divorce decree. Those are the final orders in your case. Only then is your case over with. You have a long way to go at this point, however. Right now your thoughts should be on what you can do to protect yourself and your property. Making rash judgments and decisions has never been your thing to do, however. 

With that in mind, you start to look around your home. You have no clue where your wife is right now but it is getting late. Your idea is that she is staying with a friend or at her parents’ home. Asking her is the easy way to figure all this out but she is not returning your phone calls or text messages. So, you are left to guess where she is and what she is doing. 

Talking to an experienced family law attorney means learning valuable information

When it comes to gaining the knowledge that you need to succeed in a divorce there is no better source to try than the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We have the sort of experience and know-how which makes a tremendous difference in a divorce. Do not take that experience for granted as you are attempting to gain an insight into what it means to go through a divorce. We are here to provide you with information based on your specific circumstances, as well. 

For starters, the divorce has officially begun once you are served with the divorce paperwork. The original petition for divorce kicks off the case as far as the pleadings (filings) are concerned but they do not officially start the divorce. You need to be served for that to happen. Given that you have accepted service the divorce has begun in earnest. You ask one of our attorneys what comes next. 

Filing an Answer is what comes next. An Answer in a legal situation is a response to the Petition for Divorce. This makes you the “respondent” in the divorce case. By responding to the petition for divorce with an answer you truly begin the case. From there, you can consider more lofty questions like what happens with your property now that the divorce has started.

What happens with the property once the divorce begins?

A major question to ask yourself once the divorce begins is what is going to happen with all your stuff? In general, there are three categories of property in a Texas marriage: 1) community property 2) your separate property 3) your spouse’s separate property). The two of you are charged with determining how to divide the property in your divorce. However, that is a discussion for another day. Or another blog post. 

The two of you can do whatever you want (within reason) until the divorce is filed. In some ways, it is good that the divorce was filed given that certain protections go into place during the divorce. Going through your wife’s divorce filings you see that something called a temporary restraining order was also signed by the judge. This order is long but it contains some interesting language about your property. 

Specifically, you and your spouse are both barred from removing, destroying, or selling property during the divorce. This is a normal order to be contained in a temporary restraining order. Your case may have different language in the order. It pays to review the language closely in any event. These temporary orders are like your marching orders for the case. Learn them now. If any are not in your best interests, you will have an opportunity to contest them.

How to secure your property at the beginning of the divorce

While your spouse can theoretically throw away your belongings at the beginning of the divorce (or middle, or end, etc.), she risks a great deal by doing so. For one, there are likely temporary orders in your case that prohibit her from doing so. It is a risk for her to file for divorce and immediately start tossing your belongings in the trash or even onto your front lawn. There are ways to go about doing these types of things. Throwing your property away is not the answer to any question. 

This is why I say that filing for divorce is a good thing as far as the safety of your property is concerned. Before the divorce is filed your wife could throw away your belongings. You could, technically, call law enforcement and attempt to have criminal charges leveled against her. However, many if not all law enforcement would see a non-violent domestic situation and say they are not getting involved. 

This means that a spouse who has no scruples may jump at the opportunity to harm your stuff. She knows that the plan is to file for divorce very soon. As a result, throwing away your property could be the last thing she does on her way out of the marriage. 

A real-life situation of a spouse’s bad behavior in a divorce

This is a situation that took place in real life involving a client of ours and his wife. I should note from the beginning that this is not a common situation. Do not expect something like this to happen in your divorce. However, we discuss it here to underscore our overall point at how important it is to be vigilant in a divorce case. That means being prepared and ready for anything. As you are about to see this became especially true for one husband and father. 

This client of ours lived in Conroe but in reality, was never really home. He worked for an oil and gas company and traveled for work constantly. He would spend a fair bit of time in California and then rotate over to Pennsylvania and then to other locations. In short, Texas was his home base. Except his home base was not occupied by him all that much. 

When he left to go on a work trip one week, he thought nothing of it. Yes, a divorce was ongoing, but he had gone on work trips since the divorce was filed. He had

 Not encountered any issues and did not expect to do so now. However, when he left he had no idea what he would find when he came back to Conroe. Our client finished up work and was able to snag an early flight back to Texas. He planned to surprise his son by picking him up from school that day. 

Keep your friends close, and your spouse closer

Our client was not a man who owned a lot of things. His belongings amounted to his clothing, his vehicle, and property he kept in a large firearm safe in the back of his closet. That gun safe was where he kept firearms but also where he kept cash and other valuable items. He was gone so often that his habit would be to store property in that safe, so he did not have to worry about it when he was out. 

When he returned to Texas, he found that the safe had been tampered with. It did not take a locksmith to determine that. So, when he punched in the code for the safe, he was amazed by what he saw. More accurately, he was amazed at what he did not see. The safe was empty. His cash was gone. His guns were there but jewelry, cash, and other valuable items had been removed. 

He had a good memory, so he was able to recall much of the property left in the safe. However, he could not be 100% sure on everything. Fortunately, he called a locksmith to get some help closing the safe after the keypad had been tampered with. Wouldn’t you know that his wife had used the same locksmith to open the safe that morning? 

The lesson of the day: protect your belongings

Our office placed a call to his wife’s attorney and asked her about the situation. She was evasive at first but once we pursued things further. Our client’s wife turned over all the property taken from the safe. By entering temporary orders that can help you protect your property you are helping yourself. Even if the divorce was not your idea it is wise to protect yourself to the greatest extent possible. Thank you for choosing to spend part of your day with us here on the blog for the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan    

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. Interested in learning more about how your family is impacted by the material in this blog post? Contact us today.