Legal question about divorce

I saw this in a movie. A couple were going through a bitter divorce and were arguing about how to split up property that they owned jointly.

The husband realized his wife had more sentimental attachment to the property than he did so he vindictively sold all of the contested property. Once the property had been converted into cash, the total was split in two and each got half. But the husband “won” because he got half the cash value which was all he wanted while his wife also got half the cash value but got none of the sentimental value she had felt for the property.

Watching the movie, I had my suspicions that the husband wouldn’t have been able to get away with this. The divorce proceedings had already been started and the claims had been made over the ownership of the property. In such a situation would one person be able to sell the property? It seems much more likely that the property could only be sold with the permission of both people contesting ownership.

In these kind of movies, generally the husband is rich and powerful. It’s possible that the contested properties might be jointly owned in that they were purchased during the marriage and are considered “community property”…but the husband’s name might be the only one actually on the deed. Really rich people use holding corporations and other complex legal entities, and the husband might have controlling interest in such a corporation.

Once a sale goes through, I would imagine it would be very difficult to reverse, even if it turned out that the husband had broken the rules by selling the property after the divorce was filed.

In divorces with significant assets in play, it is fairly standard to have a temporary order issued early in the litigation that forbids either party from transferring or encumbering assets. Violation of that order is punishable as a contempt of court.

Even if the wife’s name was not on the deed, she would have to sign for waiver of homestead rights and release of dower. Of course, that would depend on the state. Aside: Most states do not have “community property,” but ownership jointly is"in joint tenancy and not as tenants in common."

Indeed. In California, you’re under a restraining order not to sell your property (without your spouse’s consent) from the moment you file for dissolution of marriage, or are served with your spouse’s filing for dissolution of marriage.

Here’s the document you get (see page 2):

Varies by state. If it’s an “equitable distribution” state, all property is deemed to be owned jointly by both spouses, and one of them acting alone cannot dispose of it. But not all states have such a provision. The exception would be an inheritance by one spouse, which remains that spouse’s entirely, unless it has been placed into a joint account or used to buy community property.

The document linked says “property”. I assume that means possessions, like the golf clubs, bronzed baby booties, souveniers of Club Med, and the vegetables in the fridge.

Surely there’s some reasonableness attached to this clause? vegetables would be covered by "normal

Plus, how would they prove you didn’t toss it all in the dumpster before the papers arrived but after she walked out? I guess that’s the tricky part.

If that asset is jointly owned, the husband couldn’t (legally) sell it, but he may be able to force a sale. He should be entitled to half the value of that asset/property in the divorce. If the wife’s share of ALL OTHER marital assets is great enough, she could pay him using some of those other assets. But if not, then the only way for him to get his value of the contested asset/property would be through sale and division of the proceeds.

(Not a lawyer, just recently divorced. Actually, given this choice, I decided not to force the sale, but accepted less than half the value of our joint assets.)

ANd if, as a result of separation and inability to pay the mortgage, you had to downsize and garage sale all the “stuff” - I assume this would fall in the category of normal day to day business to some extent too.

Pretty sad if you need a court order for a garage sale to happen…