February 28, 2012

Enforcement of Personal Property Awards

Over the years helping clients with Oregon divorces, I have heard many people express frustration with their ex not following through on the personal property division. This seems to be much more of a problem in contentious cases.  Judges have a distaste for litigating about who gets the household personal property, which makes it more important to have good language in your general judgment of divorce about how personal property will be transferred between the parties.  It’s important to identify with specificity what personal property you want back and who has possession of it.  I have seen courts decline to enforce personal property awards where, post judgment, someone is asking for a specific piece of property back, but the general judgment just says “husband gets his property, wife gets hers.”  If you care enough about it to want it back, identify it!

In the event you cannot get your ex to return the property awarded to you in the divorce judgment, the court does provide two remedies for retrieival. The first is contempt of court. Under the contempt statute, the court has broad power to fine, sanction, and assess attorney fees against a person wrongfully retaining personal property.

A second remedy (contained in ORCP 85) is “claim and delivery”, which allows for the sheriff to retrieve the property on behalf of the rightful owner.

Consult with a lawyer familiar with both remedies should you have difficulty retrieving your personal property after your divorce is finalized.