I'm Moving Out - What Can I Take With Me? / by Cassandra Hearn

The beginning of a divorce is chaotic and emotionally stressful. There are many decisions to be made, plans to create, and safeguards to put in place. Many people feel the stress in their divorce significantly reduced after they separate from their spouses. Gaining some physical space between two divorcing parties can help tempers to cool and bring some calm to the process. After residing together and building a life together, it can be a delicate and difficult process to decide what you can take with you when you move out, and what you should leave behind.

California is a community property state. This means that assets that were accumulated during the marriage are considered community property, and each spouse will receive half the value of the marital assets at the time of the divorce. In addition, any assets that were already owned by each party before the marriage is likely separate property and belongs solely to the spouse that brought the asset into the marriage. These two basic rules provide guidance on how to handle moving out. 

If you have separate property such as jewelry or furniture, you may take that with you when you move out. If it's separate property, the assets are yours alone and your spouse has no claim to them. This is similarly true for your own personal identifying documents, such as your birth certificate, Social Security card, or passport. These and other vital documents should be taken with you when you move out.

Marital property is slightly more complicated. At the conclusion of the divorce proceedings, both you and your spouse may receive half the assets, or in the alternative, half the value of the assets. Cleaning out the house when you leave and taking all of the furniture is not a good idea, as it can be disruptive (especially when children are involved), and your spouse may be awarded furnishings as part of the case. A better option is to work together with your spouse to create an inventory of the marital furnishings, and agree to take only what you need. This is one of those aspects of divorce where the Golden Rule heavily comes in to play.  When moving out, it is often a good idea to take pictures of the home as you leave, including pictures of the condition of the furniture, carpets, walls, and yard. This way, you will have proof of the good condition of the home at the time of your departure in case your spouse decides to destroy assets or claim that you did so as you were leaving.

Starting a divorce can be a confusing time. You need an experienced attorney advising you on your rights and responsibilities. Contact us today at 619-800-0384 for an appointment to discuss your divorce