Theft from a Spouse While Married: What Does the Law Say?
One of the issues at stake in your divorce could be the theft of one spouse’s possessions by the other spouse during the course of the marriage. It is common for a spouse to consider the item to be his or her own property, and the other spouse to disagree, resulting in claims of theft during the divorce process. Whether or not the claims of theft have any merit depends on a variety of factors, with state law having the largest role in determining the issue.
Here are a few of the factors the court will take into consideration:
- Category of property: What is the legal status of the item in question? Just because one of you uses the item almost exclusively does not mean it is your own personal property. Any assets acquired with the use of marital funds are considered equal property of both spouses, regardless of how they’re used. Assets acquired through gifts or inheritance or any assets owned before the marriage are considered personal property because they were not acquired through the use of marital funds. If the stolen item in question was marital property, it will be much harder to get a court to agree the incident qualifies as theft.
- Divorce agreement: Check the divorce agreement for information about the distribution of assets. If one spouse disregards this agreement and fails to return property that is determined to be the other spouse’s, then a claim for theft could arise. However, divorce agreements often contain stipulations requiring releases of all claims that arose during the marriage, which could include theft claims.
- Fraud: Fraud claims can occur if one spouse deliberately misrepresented the value of their assets or income going into the marriage, of if they should have known their actions would mislead the other person. In some cases, marital fraud can include transfers of marital assets that were unfair to either party. This should not be confused with theft—it is its own separate issue.
For more information about theft during marriage, contact an experienced Long Island family law attorney at Bryan L. Salamone & Associates.