We recently answered a query which included information on how using storage could help the process of your divorce – whilst divorcing.
(You may also find this useful: Easing the Strain of Divorce.)
But what happens when divorcing/separating couples have storage space that now holds joint and individual belongings that need sorting out?
Here are a few hints and tips gathered to make life easier.
Even if you have been paying for the storage space since separation, the goods being held belong to both of you and need to be considered as part of divorce proceedings, even if the value is tiny.
You could be accused of hiding valuable assets if you fail to declare what’s in the unit. In any case, you’ll be entitled to something towards the costs of keeping it in many cases. Generally, openness is the best policy.
Often the contents in storage have a low resale value and high emotional value, so try hard to stay level headed to avoid making an already difficult situation worse.
If it’s your spouse who has access to the storage space, and you don’t, make clear to them that the storage space contents are joint belongings and therefore need to be considered as part of the wealth that needs splitting.
If you can’t do this amicably, you will need legal help to get this agreed or to ‘freeze’ access to the storage unit whilst things are properly sorted.
Taking an inventory, if you don’t already have one, is a really sensible place to start (At easyStorage, we normally do.)
By listing everything, it becomes easy to deal with things that have no value other than emotional, maybe our childhood toys. We all need to try and stay level headed about this: your soon to be ex-spouse/partner may view your Stieff bear or 1980’s Space Star collection as having a huge resale value, in which case you may need to negotiate with each other – through your solicitors if necessary.
Having an inventory will make clear what is stored and where any value lies. It will then be up to you and your ex to work out an agreement regarding who gets what. Deal with what you CAN sort first, to make as much progress as you can.
Defer the harder things to the end – there’s no point in arguing about that bear we mentioned straight off, if later another belonging to your partner may appear to offset the value.
The added bonus is that you can’t be accused of hiding anything, and if they want to audit, they can do so – accompanied, of course.
It’s so easy, in the pain of a broken relationship, to just bundle everything into a bin bag and throw it out.
Whether this is to avoid painful reminders or to seek revenge, don’t be tempted.
Once you have your inventory, share it. If your ex-partner agrees with disposing of things, go ahead, but do ask for that permission in writing just in case things turn bitter later.
Many storage units have procedures to follow when a spouse tries to get access during a divorce. Read your contract and/or talk to the manager of your storage unit about it.
At easyStorage, for example, usually if someone rings into book Access or Returns the Customer Experience team will go through the security questions with them and check the notes on the account. If the person that calls is not named on the account, they won’t discuss anything in relation to the account until they receive authorisation to do so from the person whose name is on the account.
If the rent is paid and the proper access code and key are available to both parties, the storage manager may not want to be involved with your dispute or care who tries to access.
However, the storage unit’s rules may be different from your legal position with regard to the divorce. Check before removing anything, and if the storage unit is a public access one, it never hurts to change the locks and put the keys with a responsible third party – ideally a neutral one – so that any access at all is accompanied.
The storage unit manager must always defer judgement to the courts handling the dissolution of the marriage and the separation of the assets – but let’s hope things don’t get that far.
Money is often an issue in a divorce, so if you want to give up the storage unit, do so with caution. Make sure everything is carefully sorted and packed into appropriately safe boxes, with contents recorded.
In an ideal world, have a witness to/help with this process so that you cannot later be accused of hiding anything.
Provide your solicitor with the list of items and details of where you’re now storing what was in the unit. They’ll advise you what to do once a divorce agreement is reached.
Please note that this is general, generic advice and guidance offered in a spirit of helpfulness. It is not intended to replace legal advice specific to your own circumstances.
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