By Attorney Howard Iken: Seems like a pretty stupid question: Can you steal from yourself? That leads you to the second question: Is it illegal to steal from yourself? You probably do not need to become a crack-attorney to answer both seemingly difficult questions (sarcasm intended). Drum roll …… you cannot really steal from yourself. And if you manage to do that, you cannot be arrested for doing it.
So why talk about all this nonsense in a website about divorce? Because day in, day out, soon to be ex-spouses threaten each other with a call to the police if they dare to do the unthinkable – take their own things. Ownership of “stuff” in Florida during a marriage is guided by some pretty simple principles. Attorneys have fancy names for it but the underlying principles are still easy. We call ownership of marital assets “tenants by the entireties.” Wow ! That is a pretty ridiculous term for such a simple concept. All that means is that each spouse owns all of each other’s assets. You own 100% and your spouse owns 100%. So what does that mean if you take something your spouse has? It means what it says – that you just stole something from yourself.
In a divorce or impending divorce, each spouse automatically rats out the other to the police. They get on the phone, dial the sheriff’s office and claim their spouse just took something that was not theirs. The police usually come out to see what the problem is. They observe, they look, and they listen. But pretty much all of the time, the police end their visit with the comment: “we cannot do anything and you have to go through court.” That is police-talk for “don’t call us, we will call you.”
The police correctly recognize that all marital assets belong to both spouses. It does not matter whose name is on the asset. Florida law on marital assets cuts right through that principle. No matter what, during the marriage, both of you own everything. And if you own it, you cannot be accused of stealing it. All you have done is move the asset from one lawful hand to the other.
No matter which end of that stick you are on – the end result will be the same. So lets repeat the answers one more time.
You cannot steal from yourself.
It is not illegal to steal from yourself because you cannot steal from yourself.
Got It? Hope you enjoyed this article. Now that my work is done for the evening, I believe I will steal a beer from the fridge. No problem there because the beer is already mine !