Can I sell marital property prior to a divorce?

UPDATED: Jul 20, 2010

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Can I sell marital property prior to a divorce?

My spouse abandoned our home almost a year ago. She took with her all of her clothing, lots of kitchen items, some furniture and her jewelry except for her wedding rings which she left for me as a sign that we were through. I am struggling to pay the mortgage and boat payments and I would like to sell the boat, the wedding rings and some other property to keep from losing my home. When she found out about the sale she told me that I couldn’t sell anything. What can I sell and not sell if anything? Currently neither of us has filed for a divorce yet.

Asked on July 20, 2010 under Family Law, Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

It's not so much that you can't sell "marital property" (though note: it's possible the wedding rings might be considered her property) as that you may be responsible for your soon-to-be-ex-wife's share. For example: you sell a boat worth $5k. If the boat had not been sold, in a divorce, either it would be sold and the proceeds split or shared (so $5k each) or one spouse could possibly keep the boat but get $5k less of other assets or property to compensate. However, if you've sold the  boat, under some circumstances, you might be forced to compensate your wife for her $5k "share" of it. You should speak with a family law attorney to both prepare for a divorce and to better understand your rights and responsibilities.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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