Disposing of Belongings During Separation

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Since most separations happen quickly and with a reasonable amount of emotional upset, it is highly likely that one partner or spouse will remain in the home with the majority of the belongings of the person who departed the home. And while it can be upsetting to have to be continually confronted by the possessions of someone who is no longer living with you, you cannot simply throw out their belongings. It is illegal to do so and, if you do, you can be held liable for their replacement value.


So, let’s look at some other safer and equally viable options that will help you take control of the situation and create a pathway to clearing out your home of your Ex’s belongings. First, if you have a relationship that is still civil and a conversation is possible, it would be best to contact your soon to be ex-spouse or partner and ask them if they would be willing to come by and pick up the balance of their belongings. 


To do this successfully you can offer the following options;

  1. A mutually convenient time that you can both be present to oversee the packing and picking up of the items that belong to the departing person. If you are able to arrange this type of gathering, you can both be present to validate that the items that are leaving the home do belong solely to the one who is packing.
  2. If you cannot perform this type of activity together, and you are confident that your soon to be ex-spouse/partner is trustworthy, you can arrange for a particular day(s) and time(s) that you will leave the premises and the other person will have access to the home to collect their personal effects. 
  3. If you are uncomfortable with having your ex-spouse/partner in the home in your absence, you could also arrange for a third party to be present to oversee the packing and moving of the items being collected. 


In the event that you contact your ex-spouse/partner and they are non-responsive, you will have to take a different tactic. Again, keep in mind that you cannot simply dispose of their belongings. Instead, you can do one or both of the following. Firstly, you can send a written notice to your ex-spouse/partner asking them to make arrangements with you to pick up their belongings. Give them a reasonable amount of time to respond to your request. If they do not respond, send a second notice, in writing, with a specific date and time that the home will be made available to them to pick up their belongings. Be sure to offer plenty of time and be clear that the home will be open to them for the entire period offered. Even if you do not hear from them, be at home on the day and time you offered, with another person present. This way if they change their mind and show up to collect their things, you have complied with your offer.


If none of these options work, then it is time to contact legal counsel before taking any other steps. At this juncture, one of the possible options you could consider, with a solicitor’s advice and approval, is to rent a small storage unit that you can transfer your ex-spouses/partners to. But you must keep in mind that in the event there are larger items including furniture, you may have to rent or engage the use of moving equipment or moving persons. These costs might not be recoverable. Therefore, you must be cognizant of whether this is an initial, and possibly an ongoing expense, that you can afford for the short term. 


Situations such as these are very difficult for all involved. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you take all reasonable steps to offer your ex-spouse/partner the necessary options for collecting their belongings. By doing so you protect yourself from being found liable for any damages or losses to your ex-spouse/partner’s personal items. 


If you find yourself in need of assistance with this or any other legal issue, please contact the law offices of Owen Hodge Lawyers. At Owen Hodge, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.


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