According to press reports this morning, a woman from Swindon is awaiting sentencing after being found guilty of theft for emptying out her ex-partner’s house of all its belongings, including the carpets.
According to the report, the woman arranged for a removal company to strip the property bare after discovering that her partner had been using various internet sites to search for other women, behind her back.
The case acts as a warning of how relationship disputes can have serious consequences, including criminal convictions. Whilst many people believe that belongings are “fair game” if a relationship ends, this is often not the case. As in this case, removal can in fact be punished, be it as part of a final settlement, or through criminal charges.
Whilst acts of revenge or trying to safeguard items people want to keep may seem a good idea at the time, it is important that people understand the limitations of what they can do with jointly owned property, or property belonging to their partner in the event of a split in order to avoid unpleasant or unexpected repercussions.
Different considerations apply to cohabitants, engaged couples and married couples, and sometimes inherited items or family heirlooms can be treated differently to other items acquired pre-relationship, or during it.
As tempting as it may be to act fast when there is a split, it is generally advisable to try and agree the division of belongings with the other person, or to take legal advice to ensure that any removal is within the limits of the law.
Whilst revenge may taste sweet at the time, a criminal conviction may be a rather bitter pill to swallow if it all goes wrong.
Cara Nuttall is a Family Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester.