Can a divorcing spouse empty the contents of the marital home without the other spouse’s consent?

UPDATED: Oct 12, 2010

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Can a divorcing spouse empty the contents of the marital home without the other spouse’s consent?

My wife left our marital home 9 months ago. We are in the process of a divorce. One time my estranged wife entered the house unannounced, went through my personal belongings. Then this weekend she came and practically emptied the house. Washer/dryer, sofa, furniture, shower curtain you name it. Is she within her rights to do this? There had been a verbal agreement between us about certain items that we agreed upon, but she has taken over and beyond what we verbally agreed to. Also, with regard to the furniture, I am still making repayments on all those goods. How do I stand from a legal point of view? Can she do that?

Asked on October 12, 2010 under Family Law, Illinois


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

I am sorry for your predicament.  No, she can not do what she did.  The property is marital property and even given your verbal agreement, she seems to have over stepped her bounds.  The distribution of the marital assets would be  either agreed to or ordered by the court.  They would be divided equitably not necessarily equally.  So, too, would the debts of the marriage be divided equitably.  Are the loans on the furniture in both your names or just in your name?  you need to seek legal help from an attorney in your area as soon as you can.  It is about time that the matter moves forward and that you take the necessary steps to protect yourself.  You should have moved for an order allowing you temporary occupancy of the marital home and to allow you to change the locks.  But hind sight is always 20/20.  Good luck.

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