Divorce presents many traps for the unwary, as illustrated by the recent case, People v. Gill, which has some interesting implications for people going through a divorce. The Court in Gill convicted Mr. Gill of burglarizing his own home. Mr. Gill was a title owner of this house and his wife had no court order for exclusive use of the residence. The Gills were experiencing marital difficulties and Mr. Gill to move out of the residence. The next day Mr. Gill returned to remove some belongings then was convicted of burglary.
After a separation, it is common for one party to move out of the home, and return at some time to retrieve their clothing, to pick up their mail, or to remove other personal belongings. Unless there is an order providing otherwise, if you have voluntarily moved out of your home for which you are a title owner, you have every right to return to pick up your belongings – or that is, you did before the Gill case.
Now before you start feeling sorry for Mr. Gill, understand that when Mr. Gill returned to the residence he did much more than remove a few belongings, in fact as a result of his return to the family residence he was convicted of ten different felonies, including kidnaping. Although the facts of Mr. Gill’s case may be different from those we see in divorce cases every day, Mr. Gill’s case has set a precedent that a person can be convicted of burglarizing their own home, even if there are no orders excluding them from entering the home. As such, if you are considering leaving the home during a divorce, you should make it very clear in writing that you are not “moving out” and are not relinquishing your right to return, and that in fact you are keeping your keys as you intend to return on a regular basis. Otherwise, coming back to the house the next day to pick up your toothbrush could potentially result in a burglary conviction.