A recent New Jersey appellate case, D.A.W. v. W.G.W. (2019) clarified that a party in a divorce case can lose certain rights to the property if that party does not abide by court orders to remove such property from the marital residence. Indeed, the court ruled that the defendant forfeited his personal property by failing to remove it in a timely manner. We want to provide you with more details concerning the facts of the case and the court’s ruling.
Facts of the Case in D.A.W. v. W.G.W. (2019)
According to the court record, the parties in this case got married in May 1982 and separated in June 2015. The parties’ divorce was finalized in September 2017, and the final judgment included a property settlement agreement (PSA).
The property settlement agreement specified that the defendant “would retain exclusive ownership and possession of six vehicles and a car trailer and remove those items from the former marital residence within thirty days of the execution of the agreement,” which occurred on September 14, 2017. The PSA also had a clause that clarified the defendant was required “to use his best effort to remove his personal property” within that thirty-day time window. In addition to the cars, the defendant also had other personal property at the marital home, including “tools, a small shed, clothes, a bedroom set, refrigerator, fish tank, electronic devices, and a mirror and kitchen that belonged to his mother.” The defendant also was given access to the marital property to inventory and retrieve his belongings.
Defendant Routinely Failed to Remove Belongings
The defendant did not remove his belongings within the time window established by the PSA, and the plaintiff took the matter to court. On December 21, 2017, the court gave the defendant ten days to remove all of his belongings and awarded $90,000 in attorneys’ fees to the plaintiff. The defendant again failed to comply, and the plaintiff went back to court. On March 22, 2018, the court ordered that the plaintiff was “permitted to immediately dispose of any and all of the defendant’s personal property located at the marital residence.” The court also ordered the defendant to pay costs associated with the removal. The defendant offered evidence from a doctor dated January 18, 2018, which stated he should not be on his feet or lifting heavy objects. The court rejected that evidence, noting that the doctor’s orders would not have prevented the defendant from removing his property.
The defendant did not remove the property, and the plaintiff again moved to enforce litigant’s rights. On October 31, 2018, the court found “no reasonable explanation” for why the defendant had not removed his property. Accordingly, the court ordered the defendant to turn over the title to the six vehicles housed at the marital residence. The defendant did not comply, and the plaintiff was appointed attorney-in-fact to obtain duplicate titles in order to dispose of the vehicles.
The defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion. The appeals court found that there was no abuse of discretion and concluded that the trial court’s conclusions were supported by the facts.
Contact a Family Law Attorney in New Jersey
If you have questions about property division or property settlement agreement rights in a New Jersey divorce, contact our Family Law Attorneys or call (732) 545-4717 today.