Laws Surrounding Family Heirlooms and Divorce


Family heirlooms, whether in the form of old photos, antiques, jewelry or collectibles, are often at the center of Pasadena divorce disputes. If you have precious heirlooms that you would like to maintain ownership of after your divorce, there are some things you need to know to protect your legal rights.

Inheritances and items that were yours before the marriage are considered personal property and not marital assets. An engagement ring belonging to the man's family is tricky, however, because engagement rings are generally considered a gift to the woman who is accepting the proposal. If the couple has children together, the best possible solution in this case is to agree to keep the ring for the child to inherit when he or she is an adult.

In many cases, you will need proof that an item is a family heirloom and not marital property. Testimony from family members regarding the history of the item and when it was given to you can be helpful in establishing proof for your divorce settlement.

If you are planing to move out of the marital home before your divorce is finalized, it is best to bring valuable family heirlooms with you to make sure they are not "misplaced" by an angry ex. If you don't have space for them in your new home, photograph them and keep them in a safe place.

If your ex has changed the locks and there is not a court order preventing you from entering the marital home, you are within your legal rights to hire a locksmith to gain entry.

If the items in question have significant monetary value as well as sentimental value, they will need to be professionally appraised. Your Pasadena divorce attorney can provide advice on who is qualified to appraise the assets in question. Ideally, your appraiser should be someone who has experience working with the court in divorce settlement cases.