Many couples start the divorce process with the idea that they are going to go their separate ways with as little drama as possible. But then the reality of the deep emotional, financial, and practical stresses of divorce set in, and things can get ugly quick. Maybe it’s the stress of finding a new apartment or calling your car financing company to take your spouse’s name off the title or even who gets to spend time with the dog that causes the crack, but things can go from amicable to hostile in an instant. One of the worst ways that this manifests is when an ex threatens to throw your stuff away during your divorce, either out of exhaustion, annoyance, vengeance or rage. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Understand How California Property Distribution Laws Work
First off, both spouses need to understand how their marital property is treated under the law in California. Who purchased the property and with whose actual income does not determine who receives the property in California.
Instead, California classifies property as either community property or separate property. Community property is all property that was acquired during the time of the marriage with funds earned during the marriage, whereas separate property is the property each spouse had before the marriage. Even if your spouse worked and you did not, all property purchased with your spouse’s money belongs to the both of you as community property.
Separate property stays with the spouse who had it before the marriage, but community property belongs to both spouses until the time that a settlement agreement is approved by a judge which distributes the property or a judge makes that determination himself. At the very least, you can tell your spouse that he or she will be made to answer to a California state judge for any community property that is destroyed or disposed of.
Retrieve the Property Nicely if Possible
With the community property and separate property issues in mind, it is of course the case that divorcing spouses generally do not live in the same place when they are getting divorced and some of that property will have to be split - at least temporarily - while the divorce proceeds.
If possible, make a list of all property that you and your spouse have and retrieve the property you need to have in the meantime while the divorce plays out. If your spouse is threatening to throw out property that you refuse to pick up, then go ahead and pick it up (or send a friend or family member to do so) if it is safe to do so, and you will have one less headache to worry about.
Work With a California Family Law Attorney
It should go without saying that you should work with a California family law attorney to oversee and guide your divorce. Many people are concerned about the cost of doing so, but divorce is often the most financially costly event of a person’s life, so spending money to make sure it is done right is often a far better financial choice than trying to save a few bucks and suffering financial consequences for years.
Among other things, your attorney can help you organize your list of property, make submissions to the court to make sure that property distribution is done quickly and fairly, and hold your spouse accountable for any property that is destroyed or wrongly disposed of.
Get a Restraining Order
If your spouse is being unreasonable and vengeful by threatening to destroy property, your attorney can obtain an emergency protective order or temporary restraining order which will prevent him or her from, among other things, coming to your property or taking action against your belongings under threat of arrest.
Get Answers to Your California Divorce Questions
At Kearney | Baker in Pasadena, we represent spouses through all aspects of the dissolution/termination process. To schedule a consultation regarding any questions about divorce in California, contact one of the family law attorneys at Kearney | Baker today at 626-768-2945.