What Property Can I Take When I Leave the Marriage?

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“I am considering leaving my spouse. However, she has her name on the title on both of our vehicles. Is it legal for me to take one of them when I leave? Also, what property may I take when leaving, could I take my computer? I know I would have a right to my clothing, medicines, and things of that nature, but what about televisions, furniture, etc.?”

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

This depends in large part on whether you live in a community property state or not. If you do, then everything acquired during the marriage belongs to “the community”, and not to either of you until it is divided by a court or an agreement between you and your spouse. The nine community property states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

If you don’t live in a community property state, then it is less clear cut, but in any case personal effects (clothing, jewelry which is not investment jewelry, etc.) can usually go with the person. If you take a car, you should plan to be responsible for the car payments.

The bottom line, however, is that you should attempt to reach an agreement with your spouse as to what you will take, as anything short of an agreement is almost certain to lead to expensive pain for you.

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Author: Anne P. Mitchell, Esq.

Anne P. Mitchell, Esq. is a noted family law expert, Internet law expert, and Professor of Law at Lincoln Law School of San Jose. She is the author of "Surviving Divorce: the Single Father's Guide" and "The Email Deliverability Handbook"

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