Sticky situation


#1

After a year of trying, separating and reconciling, I told my husband on January 2, 2010 that no longer wanted to continue our marriage. He indicated that he would move out of our residence (a rental apartment with my name only on the lease) by January 4, 2010. Now, I made a big mistake by joining match.com right away. I realized fairly quickly that I had made a mistake because I was not ready to be dating, even though I was initially excited about it. I removed my profile. I did exchange email addresses with one person and we did start emailing.

My husband ended up not moving out until January 11, 2010, which I now consider to be our date of legal separation. He has given up right to residency and is aware that entering my apartment is considered domestic criminal trespass and I will prosecute him.

He admits to hacking into my email and reading the emails I exchanged with the man I had “met” on match.com. There are emails exchanged prior to my date of separation, but I was very clear in them that I was not ready to date and the emails do not contain any kind of romantic or sexual overtone at all. I have never spoken with this man on the phone, nor have I met him in person. I do feel bad that my husband knows I was even talking with someone on a friendly basis so soon afterwards, but I think at worst you can call it tacky. However, I did nothing legally wrong, and I was clear to my husband that I was done with the marriage prior to ANY exchange with this man. Also, my estranged husband would not have known about this had he not been hacking into my email, something he freely admits and I don’t know the legality of.

I mostly throw that in for full disclosure and to show my husband’s frame of mind. When he confronted me over this, he let me know that he felt betrayed but at least now he knew “the truth” about the situation and has threatened to sue the “other” man for criminal conversation and alienation of affection. I assume that since I have never even met the man, this is not an option. He also told me that if I ever tried to contact him in any way, he would “destroy” me by contacting my work, my family and my friends and telling them anything and everything he had to do ruin me. He has also put this into a letter dated January 19, 2010, the same night this confrontation took place.

He called me yesterday, January 24, 2010. He initially called requesting certain items that he was supposed to have taken with him on January 14, 2010 but did not. (He had complete and free access to take the remaining items; he simply chose not to.) I told him that I was willing to given him the majority of these items provided he found a third party to retrieve them as I was no longer willing to give him access to my residency. The conversation then became about the cats. He had given me “custody” of our cats. He now wishes to retract that and take the cats. I am not willing to concede in anyway that he should have the cats. For the time being, I believe that the cats should stay with me as I live alone in a stable, quiet environment and am home each evening. His situation is less than ideal at the moment as he has established residency at his parents where his brother and three nephews live as well. I believe that overall, when he has a living situation equal to my own, it will need to come down to a third party to decide who gets permanent custody of our cats.

During our call yesterday, he again threatened to destroy my life by calling my work and family. He explicitedly threated to break into my home. He told me that no lock, no alarm, nor myself could stop him, that he would “come through” me if he had to.

I have also told him that I will not give him anything else at this point until there is a signed separation agreement outlining how we will divide property and debt.

So now that I’ve babbled on for way too long these are my questions:

  1. Do I have the legal right to retain possesion of items he brought into the marriage, until a separation agreement is signed?
  2. If so, at what point may I sell these items, plus “shared” property, to apply towards shared debt?
  3. I know I can prosecute if my husband breaks and enters my home and steals things, but what are my rights to recovery of these items, most especially to my cats?
  4. Provided the cats (2) remain in my care until a third party can intervene, what do I need to do to show that it would be best for them to remain with me permanently?
  5. Do I have enough evidence to obtain a restraining order at this point?
  6. What other things can I do to pro-actively protect myself, my cats, my belongings and my personal and professional reputation? I have notified my apartment complex that my husband is not allowed in my home and I have asked my neighbors to notifiy the police if they see anyone other than myself entering my apartment.

#2

I suggest you do return items of your husband’s separate property. In the event he decided to take you to court to have these items returned you could be held liable for his attorney’s fees.

You should not sell any items of property until it has been decided who gets what.

If your husband breaks into your home he will be in a world of trouble, but that will not circumvent your loss. Be sure you change the locks, and inform the apartment security to be on the look out so this can be prevented.

The cats are considered property, and there is no hearing regarding their custody. If the two of you cannot agree on who keeps them the court may simply order that each of you get one.