He Won’t Get His Stuff!

What do you do when you’re in the midst of a divorce and your spouse has moved out but hasn’t yet moved out his or her personal belongings? The most frequent threat in telephone conversations between estranged spouses is “I’ll just put it out on the street.” Can you do that?

The opinions are divided. It may or may not expose you to liability to simply put your spouse’s personal property outside the protection of the marital residence, particularly if you knew when you did it that tha property might be damaged, stolen, or destroyed.

Let me suggest a slightly more humane approach. It’s more trouble for you, but it’s also less likely to inflame the passions of your spouse and spouse’s family, and less likely to anger the judge. First, send your spouse a letter by certified mail. Describe in the letter the particular household items you need to get out of the way. Offer to cooperate with your spouse to set a mutually agreeable time so your spouse can remove the personal property that’s in your way. If it’s practical to do so, include photographs of the items. Then wait two weeks.

After two weeks, if your spouse still hasn’t contacted you to make arrangements to remove the items, physically move them to a storage warehouse that rents for one month at a time. Rent the items in your spouse’s name and pay for the first month. Then send your spouse (again by certified mail) a copy of the one-month contract showing the location of the storage facility, a description of the items you have moved into storage, and the key or combination to the locked location of the property you have stored.

The disadvantages of this method are:

  • It requires more work and time from you.
  • It requires you to move your spouse’s property, which may be heavy and may even be damaged while you’re moving it.
  • It costs more money.

The advantages of this approach are:

  • It gets your spouse’s stuff out of the way.
  • It places you in the role of the reasonable party who did everything he or she could do to be considerate and prudent.
  • It helps you sleep better at night.