Taking property of sentimental value and making copies of financial records can avoid problems in a divorce when it is time to divide the property pool.
When relationships break down, the partner who decides to move out often does so in a rush. Moving out quickly may be the best thing you can do, particularly if your physical or mental health is at risk. If you have time, however, you should give serious thought to what property you should take when you leave.
Although all property acquired before and during a marriage becomes part of the property pool that is divided after a divorce, judges typically look at property solely in terms of economic value. Particular items of property, such as family photographs, may have enormous sentimental value for you even if they have no economic value.
Unfortunately, if you do not take items of sentimental value when you leave, you may not be able to obtain possession of them later. Judges have little interest in settling disputes about property that has no economic value. The judge is likely to follow the easiest route, which is to say “whichever party has it on the day of trial can keep it.”
Even if you might be able to persuade a judge to give you specific items that have sentimental worth to you, your spouse might claim that the property was lost or destroyed after you left. The judge is more likely to accept those representations than to take action to find property that has no economic value.
If something has sentimental value to you — your grandmother’s rocking chair, the medals you won in a competition — take it when you move out of the home. That’s the best way to assure that you will be able to keep those things when your property settlement is finalized.
Parties in contested financial proceedings are required to exchange lists of the property they possess or control, but will your spouse be honest? Before you move out, make copies of all the financial records you can find. Bank statements, reports from investment counselors, trust documents, property appraisals, and superannuation statements are all important.
Assume that once you move out, your spouse or partner will change the locks. You may never have another opportunity to learn exactly what property your spouse has acquired in his or her own name. You can keep your spouse honest by making copies of every financial record you can find before you leave. And if you are leaving valuable property behind, take a picture of it before you leave. That way, your spouse cannot deny that it exists.