Questions about secret property and secret storage unit

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Questions about secret property and secret storage unit

My wife has a secret storage unit and she doesn’t know that I know about it. She has failed to pay the rental for nearly 60 days at which point it will go to auction. I’m worried about losing the family keepsakes photos, paintings, jewelry, books, etc. I know for sure she’s considered divorce – phone calls to lawyers, web searches, a written plan, etc. So, it’s possible her plan is to stash valuable jointly owned assets. What are the penalties for picking the lock and having a look at what’s inside? Not to take anything, just to look. Can I take over ownership of the storage unit, then gain legal access? Can she be forced after filing for divorce to reveal the contents?

Asked on October 14, 2016 under Family Law, Colorado


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

1) Picking the lock on a secured storage facility has a name: burglary. Don't do this--you can be arrested.
2) The only way to take over ownership would be, if she defaults and it is auctioned, by outbidding other bidders.
3) HOWEVER, in a divorce--whether filed by you or by her--you can list this as an asset (i.e. the contents) which must be evaluated and distributed during the divorce: a spouse may not legally hide family assets, and if discovered, they are as subject to distribution as any other assets.
If you fear she is going to dispose of these things prior to a divorce, then you may wish to be the one for divorce now, and in the process, apply for a court order barring her from disposing of, moving, etc. the contents and further requiring her (or both of you, jointly) to pay the unit's upkeep, pending divorce. A family law attorney can help you with this.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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