Generally speaking, moving out does not mean giving up one’s rights to any property. If one spouse wants to remain in the house and buy out their spouse’s share of the house, then it might make the most sense for them to stay. However, moving out would not mean that they give up their right to the house.
People should be reminded of the fact that personal property can disappear. This is why I always recommend that my clients take anything of sentimental value (e.g. childhood heirlooms, gifts from family members) with them before they choose to leave the house. It might be wise to discuss with an attorney whether it’s acceptable to take other assets, such as furniture from the house against their spouse’s wishes. What is left behind should be cataloged as best as possible. Many people choose to record a dated video of a walkthrough of the house. This can prove what was present before they left in case those items disappear once they have moved out. Even if parties remain living together, this type of cataloging is often advisable in case one spouse removes or sells assets.
When moving out, if their attorney or the court gives them permission to do so, anything owned prior to the marriage and anything of sentimental value to them should be taken with them, but anything marital in nature should only be removed once the parties have reached an agreement and the attorney or the court has given permission.
Most personal property has very little value unless it is an antique. Some types of personal property, such as power tools, lawnmowers, fine jewelry, and collectible items retain value, but furniture, pots, and pans, etc. will almost always just be distributed amongst the parties by agreement. It is highly unlikely the court or the attorneys will spend time placing values on these items and a couple of hours of your attorney’s time spent arguing about the distribution of these items very likely will exceed their value. If the contents are valued, the value will not be based on their replacement value but rather on garage sale value, so each spouse generally takes a portion of the contents of the household by agreement rather than either receiving a “buy-out” of the value of the household contents. Inevitably, the division won’t be equal, but in the eyes of the court, this type of property isn’t worth the attorney’s fees or the court’s time, so the courts have limited patience when it comes to people fighting over personal property. Often, the courts will just refer the parties to a mediator, who will be the final determiner as to who gets what from the contents of the house.
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