Can I sell marital property prior to a divorce?

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Can I sell marital property prior to a divorce?

My spouse abandoned our home almost a year ago. She took with her all of her clothing, lots of kitchen items, some furniture and her jewelry except for her wedding rings which she left for me as a sign that we were through. I am struggling to pay the mortgage and boat payments and I would like to sell the boat, the wedding rings and some other property to keep from losing my home. When she found out about the sale she told me that I couldn’t sell anything. What can I sell and not sell if anything? Currently neither of us has filed for a divorce yet.

Asked on July 20, 2010 under Family Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

It's not so much that you can't sell "marital property" (though note: it's possible the wedding rings might be considered her property) as that you may be responsible for your soon-to-be-ex-wife's share. For example: you sell a boat worth $5k. If the boat had not been sold, in a divorce, either it would be sold and the proceeds split or shared (so $5k each) or one spouse could possibly keep the boat but get $5k less of other assets or property to compensate. However, if you've sold the  boat, under some circumstances, you might be forced to compensate your wife for her $5k "share" of it. You should speak with a family law attorney to both prepare for a divorce and to better understand your rights and responsibilities.


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