What’s needed before you can dispose of your ex-spouse’s property?
Separation often occurs quickly, usually via a trigger moment. This may be an argument, or through the intervention of a third party such as NSW Police. In these situations, one spouse typically moves out of the home immediately, without taking any possessions apart from essential clothes, toiletries, phone and other minor personal effects.
At a time when emotions are running high, the logistical and financial stresses and concerns of the separation are often exacerbated.
I am frequently asked questions of ‘Who pays the mortgage after separation?’ and ‘Can I throw out my ex’s belongings?’ These are both valid questions, deserving of clear answers. This article will focus on the etiquette and legal requirements relating to disposing of a spouse’s property following separation.
The departing spouse is unsure of how to collect remaining items that they have an ownership interest in, such as family heirlooms, furniture, artwork or recreational equipment. These items may remain in the formerly shared home for a long period of time until the parties complete their property settlement, or a property recovery order is issued by the Local Court (if an Apprehended Violence Order is involved, and only for personal possessions).
Another common situation is where the separation was traumatic and the spouse who has moved out, instead of going back to collect personal items, chooses to replace them and forgo their old possessions.
In either of the above scenarios you can understand why the partner who was left with the former spouse’s possessions would want to dispose of them for both practical and emotional reasons.
Do you have a legal right to dispose of your ex-partner’s property?
Legally the answer is no.
Before disposing of an ex-partner’s property you are required to provide the former spouse reasonable notice of your intent, and adequate opportunity to come back and collect anything they would like to keep. If reasonable notice is not given, you could be held liable for the reasonable replacement costs.
What can you do if you wish to dispose of a former spouse’s property?
If you are left with the possessions and wish to dispose of them you should give the spouse notice in writing advising that the goods are available for pick up at a certain time. This correspondence to the other spouse will indicate that the items will be disposed of if not picked up within a reasonable time .
You need to provide a reasonable level of access and cooperation when the spouse does come at the time arranged to retrieve their possessions.
If you would like advice regarding a situation similar to the above, or any other family law matter please contact one of our friendly team members today on 1800 994 279, or contact us via email.