Most of us recount having to “call” possessions as a kid. You know: “I call that chair,” “I call the back seat in the car, in the middle, my feet on the hump.” Do you have to do the same thing as a married Virginia man? Can your wife clean out your home when you are away? Well, no, she can’t, not legally. And she can be charged with a variety of civil and criminal offenses.
This presumes you two are still married but, perhaps, separated. Perhaps you were not even aware your marriage was rocky and her “Home Alone” cleanout is her way of signaling the start of a separation. If so, she screwed up badly.
You open the front door and see nothing. No furniture. No sentimental treasures. No Hot Wheels collection, Red Ryder BB gun, or kids’ toys. She’s taken everything!
Move past your initial anger, shock and dismay and get in touch with a Virginia attorney specializing in family law. At a minimum, your attorney will discuss with you Virginia Code § 20-107.3, dealing with “marital waste,” which is the intentional dissipation of assets in the marriage.
Marital waste or dissipation of assets is a civil offense, so the penalties your wife can incur are, on their face, modest: a judge can charge her with contempt if a court order was in place regarding your separation. The judge can also award you money, as the plaintiff, to compensate you for her illegal actions.
It is perhaps not the blood and fangs you want, but it is a start. And believe us, your family law attorney is just getting started.
Next up is the charge of desertion, which can fast-track your divorce, provide fault grounds, and put your wife on notice that, hey, she’s a criminal!
Under Virginia Code § 20-61 her actions are illegal because of one, 233-word sentence in the law, which we have (mercifully) truncated for you:
Any spouse who without cause deserts or willfully neglects or refuses or fails to provide for the support and maintenance of his or her spouse, and any parent who deserts or willfully neglects or refuses or fails to provide for the support and maintenance of his or her child under the age of eighteen years of age … shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine of not exceeding $500, or confinement in jail not exceeding twelve months, or both, or on work release employment as provided in § 53.1-131 for a period of not less than ninety days nor more than twelve months …
Notice the monetary fine (no longer called an award for the plaintiff) and the prospect of jail time. Things just got real, even if all your things are in the back of a U-Haul headed west on I-64.
This law applies because your wife (clearly soon to be your ex-wife) has hit a bit of a trifecta:
- She deserted you
- She deserted your children if you have any in the marriage
- She took everything in the house that provided for your maintenance and support, and the maintenance and support of your children
Let’s consider those things your wife cleared out. They are marital property, but they can also include your personal, separate property like that awesome Hot Wheels collection (really?). When you take stuff that does not belong to you without the owner’s permission from a Virginia home, that’s called burglary.
Burglary is illegal. Really, truly criminally illegal. In fact, Code of Virginia provides not one but six different laws just on burglary (your attorney may toss in some of the 22 Larceny charges, too). The very first burglary law, § 18.2-89, identifies it as a felony:
If any person break and enter the dwelling house of another in the nighttime with intent to commit a felony or any larceny therein, he shall be guilty of burglary, punishable as a Class 3 felony
Maybe she didn’t skulk away with your Hot Wheels collection in the night. No worries! Virginia Code § 18.2-90 tags her with a daytime felony, too:
If any person in the nighttime enters without breaking or in the daytime breaks and enters or enters and conceals himself in a dwelling house … with intent to commit murder, rape, robbery or arson in violation of §§ 18.2-77, 18.2-79 or § 18.2-80, he shall be deemed guilty of statutory burglary, which offense shall be a Class 3 felony
Throw the Book
Screenwriters often use the hackneyed phrase, “They’ll throw the book at you.” In Virginia, your family law attorney will throw the book — er, Code of Virginia — at your wife: marital waste, desertion, burglary, larceny.
She deserves it; what she did — by taking all your things and all the marital and separate property — is civilly and criminally illegal.
But your family law attorney can do nothing if you do not seek legal help and notify authorities of her crimes. Start by contacting The Firm For Men’s divorce attorneys in Virginia Beach at (757) 383-9184. If your wife has “called” everything in the house as hers, call us! We can help you fight back, recover your property, and restore some semblance of peace to you.