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The short answer to the question is yes. He can keep your property until after the divorce and here is why. When a couple decides to legally part ways, each one one of your will get a part of the marital property. Whether it is is an even split, a forced liquidation with a cash split or one side dominates the battle is left up to the state laws and ultimately determined by the judge. Each of you will get to keep property you brought into the marriage or inherited provided you can prove it. The reason why property is so contested and why he gets to keep your property you chose not to take with you when you separated is something called communal marital property.
Married couples usually and legally own almost everything or all of their property they accumulated during their marriage together. A lot of people just leave everything to their spouse to get out of the relationship, but there are a lot of couples that have strong ties to certain items, feel they need certain property to successfully start over or just want the stuff that they feel was there property throughout the marriage even if it was acquired while married. For example, why would a husband need jewelry acquired for you while you were married or your clothes? Certain states are common law states and certain states are communal states. There are some slight differences you need to understand.
If you reside in a Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin things can get a little complicated for you if you want all your property back even after the divorce. Alaska and Tennessee allow couples to choose the system of community property. Couples in those two states have to sign a contract agreeing specific assets and property as community property. Here is why it makes things even harder.
As a rule, money or financial assets earned and gained by either you or your husband while you are married, along with all property purchased with the money are considered equally yours and your husbands. What can make things even more complicated is debt. Debt works the same way. For example, if your husband racked up a lot of debt or financed things you were vocally opposed to, it is still shared debt. If your husband were to die, and please do not get any ideas, the property would go to you and so would the debt.
It is still possible to own separate property. For example, as stated earlier, if you were to inherit a house from your deceased parents, money, jewelry or anything, or basically, if you inherit or are gifted anything, the property belongs to you alone and cannot be touched provided you can prove it was inherited or gifted to you by someone other than your husband during the divorce. If you come into the marriage with a car or important property you can prove was yours prior to the divorce, the same concept applies.
Most states, except those listed above, use common law to determine property in court. In common law states, the court takes the judicial stance that it is easy to tell what property belongs to who. If only your name is on a deed or document, then it belongs to you. It still might be tough to tell whose electronics belonged to who, but major property would easily be determined as yours as long as just your name was on it. Please keep in mind this is still determined during the divorce proceedings, and the police will likely not get involved because it is a civil matter.
If you decide to leave, you should take as much as your can with you, but whatever the circumstances, it is best to make a list of the property you feel you are entitled to, hire a competent divorce lawyer and let the law decide the rest. In many states, judges order couples into mediation to settle the cases early. Mediation is a good time to haggle over personal property. If the property is not valuable, sentimental or easily replaceable, it is best to just let it go if your husband is making an issue out of it. He will look immature to the judge, and that will actually help you in more important contests. Divorce is almost always messy, and unfortunately, he can keep most of your property unless you prove you entered the marriage with it until the divorce decree is finalized.
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