Ex-in-law's furniture: am I obligated to return it?

So about five years ago, my then-wife’s grandmother died. When my then-MIL was going through her effects, she came across a bookshelf that had once been used to hold LPs.

Since I was the only vinyl collector in the family, MIL asked wife if I wanted the shelf. It was perfect for LPs (good looking LP shelving is notoriously difficult to find), so I said yes.

My ex-wife and I split just over a year ago. When I left, she asked if I wanted the shelf, I said that I did. It’s currently sitting in my living room, performing it’s intented function.

For more than a few reasons, I haven’t had any contact with my ex for more than three months, and I probably haven’t spoken to any of her family since the divorce was final.

So today, I got a voice mail from my ex-wife’s brother. He said that the shelf wasn’t my ex-wife’s to give up, and that he and his mother would like it back to hold on to a bit more of their family history.

Now, whatever my feelings are about my ex-wife, I bear no ill will toward her family, and I have no particular attachment to the shelf (though it works well). Still, moving LPs is a giant pain the ass, I’d have to spend money to buy new shelves, and they’d probably be from Ikea, which means a trip to the burbs and a couple of hours wasted on assembly.

Plus, I really, really want to avoid even the slimmest chance of contact with my ex. Given the way she is, there’s a non-zero chance that she could show up at my place if/when XBIL comes over.

It’s also weird to ask for the stuff more than a year after I’ve moved out. Especially since I’ve had the thing in some capacity for five years.

So, what say y’all? Do it give it back, or is it mine to keep?

To be honest, I’d give it back. Holding onto it is only going to create drama, and it sounds like you have enough going on in your life at the moment.

Yes it’s weird to ask for the return of a gift. Yes it’s rude. But for the sake of not inviting more chaos and bad feeling, just give the thing back. Feel free to specify that BIL should not bring the ex-wife with him when he comes to collect.

I don’t think you’re obligated to return it, but I’d probably give it back anyway. As sandra_nz says, you can always tell XBiL he can come get it, but not to bring the ex-wife when he does.

Yeah, give it back.

I suspect that somebody needs a bookshelf, not that they’re concerned about “family history”. If it was that important to them, they would have asked sooner, or your ex would have taken it with her when she left.

Agree with the others - give it back. It’s not worth the fight. Is it yours? Yeah, I’d say it is. But this is one of those things that just because you *can *get away with something doesn’t mean you should.

Joining the chorus…you probably don’t have to give it back but you probably should.

I’m going to differ somewhat with the other opinions. It’s more than rude to be demanding back a bookshelf after 5 years and divorce, it’s nuts. Your MIL didn’t loan the f**king thing to your ex, she gave it to her for her household, and now 5+ years a divorce later to have enough chutzpah to construct this BS scenario out of whole cloth where MIL’s gift is now some sort of a loan in order to grab it back is amazingly presumptuous and grasping.

Even if I didn’t really need the LP case I’d tell them to get bent for the sheer grasping obnoxiousness of the request. I’d ignore the request, and if he calls again tell him his request if obnoxious and absurd.

It’s yours to keep 110%.

Technically, no, but I would anyway.
Family stuff is different from normal stuff, and when you’re given a gift like that it’s often with the assumption that it’s going to you so it’ll stay in the family. It’s not the family’s fault that it didn’t work out between you and your ex and that their assumption proved to be incorrect, so even with no legal obligation to return it, I would.

I would probably give it back.

But, I would make them come pick it up, when it is COMPLETELY convenient for you. If it is heavy, tell them to bring their own help removing it from the house.

If you wanted to go a different route, you could offer to sell it to them at the price of a new LP shelf for you. That way, they get this history they can’t live without, and you get a shelf. This probably wouldn’t make friends, but after all, it is your ex.

I think you got it right in the first answer. I wouldn’t want any extra drama after a divorce with an ex’s family. And like others have said, he can come and get it - I wouldn’t be putting myself out to do him a favour.

Another vote for in any normal universe it is yours.

But, for practical purposes, just telll em to come pick it up and avoid the drama. And as above, make all the inconvience THEIRS to do so, not yours.

Totally agree that they have to do all of the work and/or pay for any costs related to getting the furniture back.

I’d give it back. Another piece of her out of your house and out of your life - that’s a bonus for doing a nice thing for her family.

I tend to agree that I’d probably give it back but I wouldn’t think you were odd for wanting to keep it.

  1. IMO the shelf became community property. If it were so important as an heirloom that it was given to you (via her) with the explicit understanding that it not leave the family, I might think differently. I have a feeling that was never stipulated. If you wanted to be a PITA and said, “Oh that, I sold it,” what could they say? She gave it to you. If someone broke in and stole it, wouldn’t it be “yours” to report to the police?

  2. It’s a fantasy scenario in a way, but suppose you and the ex- calculated the division of household goods to the penny. Let’s suppose you also calculated the value of this at $250. If she gave it to you with the understanding that she would keep your toaster collection (miraculously, valued at the same $250), then it’s like you’re out $250 of your share if you just give it back.

I know people don’t calculate these things to the penny or say “I’ll keep this; you keep that,” but maybe some consideration was involved in letting you keep the shelves?

  1. I wouldn’t want to open the floodgates. If you have a bunch of stuff that she left that originated from the grandmother, maybe they’ll decide to ask for all that back, too.

I have my father’s old watch, which mom gave to him on anniversary 1, in 1942. If my ex had it, you can bet your ass I would buy a replacement for it to keep that piece of history in the family. Supposing you’re willing to give it back, would ex BiL be willing to help you cart, assemble, and put your albums in the new unit? Possibly buy it? At least pay half?

Here’s what I’d say: “I’m so sorry - I didn’t need it anymore, so I gave it to Goodwill.”

See what BIL says to that.

I’d feel like a complete pushover for handing it back right away. Is it yours? Heck yeah. Not probably, not maybe. It’s yours, period. For ex BIL to ask for it back is SUCH a dick move that I’d be seriously offended in the you-think-I’m-that-much-of-a-pushover-that-you-think-you-can-get-away-with-that? way.

If it’s me, I hold on to it, pretend like I never got the message, and see what ex BIL does. My guess is he asked you on a “what have I got to lose” basis, and he won’t press you for it if you ignore him. If he does press, I’d consider the nature of it. Going through the ex=dick. Not getting it back. Coming to me personally and aggressively/threateningly=dick. Not getting it back. Coming to me personally and groveling, acknowledging that it’s totally dick-like to make the request=he gets it back.

It’s inconvenient to give it back, sure, but why not? If you hold onto it, then you’ll be seen as petty and grudge-holding. It’s not worth that. I don’t think it’s THAT rude to ask for it to be returned to the family – borderline at best. Besides, it could be that they just realized that the Ex didn’t get it in the divorce.

You might want to see a doctor, hon … it looks like you may be suffering from a pretty strong case of testosterone poisoning.

“It wasn’t hers to give you”=says who? A lawyer?

Pairing “grandma” and “shelf that held records…” Did grandma listen to lots of records or is that just a red herring? If it isn’t truly an issue of “family history,” but just that someone needs a shelf, they could kiss my ass.:mad:

My earlier comments about some financial incentive to return it is my way of addressing some of flyboy’s issues. Anybody can ASK for anything and if you say no, maybe they drop it. But if you agree, it may only encourage them to ask for more…it didn’t cost them anything. But if they took up a collection and gave you the $250 for it, then they must have genuinely been attached to it, it wasn’t about money for them, etc.

Note: maybe you remember how the division went, or maybe you don’t. “Sure, bring back the toaster collection and it’s yours…” Or maybe the ex said, “OK, you can have the shelf if you pay the last Master Card bill.” That bill was $453.12, so effectively, you have a figure of what you valued it at when you were doing the division: you paid her half of the bill.

If you do give it back, I’d stipulate you don’t want to see the ex. If the ex makes an appearance the deal is off. I would also avoid any emails or messages left on machines that could be used in court. IANAL but I imagine they’d take you to small claims, so they wouldn’t need a lawyer to represent them.

I say ignore the first request and see what happens.
Then decide if you CARE what your Exs family thinks of you.
You could always explain that it was part of your divorce settlement and you don’t have anything else to use in it’s place. If they want it back so badly, they could get you a replacement at (whatever place you find one) and bring it over to your place in exchange.