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Knoxville Divorce Lawyer > Blog > Divorce > What Happens If Your Spouse Trashes Your Personal Property While Your Divorce Is Pending?

What Happens If Your Spouse Trashes Your Personal Property While Your Divorce Is Pending?

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You probably know someone who never saw the full extent of their ex-spouse’s mean streak until they filed for divorce.  It’s one thing to say, “You want to divorce me?  Fine!  You’re not getting a penny!”  Actually destroying things just to reduce the amount of property available to your spouse at the end of the divorce process is quite another.  Some people withdraw money from joint bank accounts or sell jointly owned assets at a loss so there will be less marital property to divide.  Others quit their jobs once they find out that the marriage is over, in an attempt to get out of paying alimony.  Intentionally damaging the personal property your spouse brought into the marriage is an all-time low.  No matter what form this behavior takes, it does not lead to a good outcome for the person who does it.  If your spouse isn’t fighting fair during your divorce, contact a Tennessee divorce lawyer.

When Your Spouse Lets Your Prized Possessions Fall into Disrepair

Joyann and James Butler married in 2002, and he moved into the house she already owned, where they lived with Joyann’s son from her first marriage.  They bought two mastiffs shortly after they married.  James made improvements to the property, redoing the wiring and digging a three-acre man-made pond on the grounds.  When they separated and filed for divorce in late 2004, Joyann filed an injunction to prevent James from entering the house.  Some valuable items of James’ personal property remained at the house, including his boat, two toolboxes, a boat motor, two end tables he had owned since childhood, and his collection of hunting trophies; at trial, James said that these taxidermized animals were priceless to him.

The parties’ lawyers drafted a Marital Dissolution Agreement (MDA).  James hesitated to sign it before receiving his personal items.  Joyann’s attorney assured James that he had told Joyann not to damage James’ personal property, and she has promised to keep it in good condition.  Therefore, James signed the MDA while his personal property was still in Joyann’s possession.

When James got his personal items back, they were in disrepair.  The hunting trophies appeared to have been loaded into a trailer without caution; their eyes were missing, the deer heads were missing clumps of fur, and the ducks and geese had broken wings and tails, and their stuffing was coming out.  The end tables were scratched, and the boat, which had been in near-perfect condition when James moved out, had 21 holes that looked like they had been made intentionally.

The trial court awarded the marital home to Joyann and James’ tree trimming business and its associated equipment to him.  The value of the house had appreciated $10,000 since the parties married, so the court awarded $5,000 of that appreciation to each spouse.  The insurance company paid James a settlement for his damaged property, and the court awarded the money to him.

Contact an Attorney Today for Help

If you and your spouse have separated, but some of your valuable personal items are still in the marital home, contact a family law attorney as soon as possible.  Contact Knoxville divorce attorney Patrick L. Looper for help.

Resource:

tsc.state.tn.us/sites/default/files/OPINIONS/TCA/PDF/084/ButlerJoyannOPN.pdf

https://www.patricklooperlaw.com/how-does-equitable-distribution-work-when-both-parties-are-struggling-financially/

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