April 13, 2024

Ex waits too long to retrieve property from house

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Q. My divorce was finalized five years ago and I bought out my ex’s interest in our home.  He had 30 days to walk through the home to see if there was anything he had left behind when he moved in with his girlfriend the prior year and take whatever he wanted at that point.  I repeatedly emailed asking him to come for anything he wanted because I just wanted to get it over with. He never did. About a year later, I inherited a significant amount of money and completely gutted / renovated the house. I donated most of the old furniture to charity.

Last week I got an email from my ex saying that he had ended his relationship, bought a new house, and wanted to come get his belongings because, among other things, he needs furniture for his place.  I responded that it was too late. He has now sent an email saying that I am in contempt and will have to buy him new furniture if I will not give him half of what was in the house when we divorced.  Does he have some legal ground to stand on here?

A. While I have not read your divorce agreement, I think it is safe to say he is trying to bully you into something here and does not have a leg to stand on.  Agreements are typically drafted in such a way that if you fail to do the walk through and retrieve your personal property by the deadline, you forfeit your right to any property. You should re-read the agreement to be sure, but I suspect you will see that you get to retain all of the property in the home, and he is only entitled to items he designates during a walk through within a specified time period.

Feel free to ignore his threats. The one proactive thing you should do is go back through all of your old emails to him encouraging him to come get his belongings so that they are easily accessible to you should you be served with a contempt summons. If he files a complaint for contempt, he will need to show that there is a clear and unequivocal order which you knowingly violated. His problem is that there is a clear and unequivocal order which he knowingly violated and wants to lay that responsibility at your doorstep. It will not work. He also has the small problem of having waited an unreasonable time to make a claim which can bar his stale requests.

Email questions to whickey@brickjones.com

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