If you live in a community property state (California, Texas, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Washington, Wisconsin, and New Mexico -- Alaska sometimes follows community property as well, and you'll notice that these form a good chunk of the western states), everything bought during the marriage is considered owned by both spouses. You can imagine how complicated that might make breaking up and moving out because now one spouse can state that what the other spouse considers his or hers is really not. If you are in the middle of an acrimonious divorce, you must be careful about what you take out of the home when you leave before the court has finalized your divorce. There are some things you can take outright, but others may have to sit for a while.
For those in community property states, anything you bought before the marriage or received as a gift or inherited during the marriage is yours. Your spouse can't stop you from taking these items when you leave. If he or she tries to stop you or even steals the items, that is not going to look good in court at all, especially if you can provide proof that the item is yours. For example, if you have a copy of a deceased person's will stating that a particular item is yours, your spouse can't keep that item and would have to explain to the court why he or she stole it from you. You have every right to remove those items when you leave, even if the divorce is not final yet.
The Clothes off Your Back
Community property can be tricky because of its reach. If two spouses own only clothing that was bought during the marriage, does that really mean the wife's bras are partly owned by the husband? While technically that might fit the law's definition of community property, one spouse can't really order the departing spouse to remove all clothing and leave the house naked. You should definitely contact a lawyer before removing every single piece of your clothing, but removing your commonly worn items and necessary items like a winter coat is often acceptable.
As for everything else -- your DVDs, your books, and even your computers -- if they were bought during the marriage, you may face opposition when you try to remove them without a court order. If you feel that you are being unfairly restricted or that the opposition is based totally on retribution, rather than on any real claim to the property, you need to contact a divorce lawyer as soon as you can.
Getting a divorce is never really pretty, and an acrimonious divorce can really cause you problems. Work with an attorney to ensure you can extricate yourself and your belongings as easily as possible. Click here for info about this topic.