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2015-05-07
Featured Article

Divorce Tips: Firearms

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Tagged As: Divorce, How To, Legal, and Tips

What Is This

I am tired of the preponderance of divorce cases favoring mothers over fathers for no real reason other than social norm and outdated stereotypes. I would like to empower good fathers that face an uphill battle against deadbeat-dad stereotypes to have more information at their disposal prior meeting lawyers, mediating with spouses, walking into court, etc. This "Divorce Tips" series is simply written to raise awareness of issues you may face and potential options at your fingertips. Although written from a father's point of view and bias, there is no reason this article cannot aid a mother.

Legality

I am NOT a lawyer. All of the information in this article is from personal experience and/or anecdotal experience from others. I am not responsible for any of the decisions you choose to make nor am I responsible for the effects of those decisions. I strongly encourage you to consult with an attorney for advice about your local laws, local judicial precedent, and for their professional opinion.

Laws vary by state and municipality especially when it comes to a controversial subject such as firearms. Before doing anything, always make sure your decisoins align with your state/city/town's legal framework. Nothing makes a divorce worse for you than breaking the law yourself and further enabling the other party.

Two terms are very important for you to understand in the context of your local laws. Ownership. Possession. The difference between the two is a fine line but can be an important factor in legal processes. For instance, you can own a firearm and not be in possession of it. Likewise, an individual may also be in possession of a firearm but not be the owner.

Cover Your Ass

One of the smartest moves you can make is to remove all firearms and ammunition from your house - especially if you haven't begun living under separate roofs. For that matter, remove anything that may be construed as a weapon, like hunting knives or archery gear. Why? You are always at risk for accusations of fear or endangerment. One call to the police that "she is afraid" is all it takes for your entire divorce case to be an uphill battle from a defensive position attempting to clear your name.

Where should you put them? On this, given the volatile and varying nature of firearms laws, you must tread carefully in accordance with law. Typical choices include trusted family members, trusted friends, and storage units. Whatever choice you make, it's important to not commit a felony in the process. In this matter, it's often prudent to consult with the police to be sure.

  • Live in a state that requires handgun permits? If you leave your handguns with a person lacking a permit - they are now committing a felony.
  • Live in a state where certain components (like an AR15 lower receiver) are regulated? Similar to the handgun situation, laws may preclude the assisting party from possession.
  • Live in a jurisdiction where the line between possession and ownership is too blurry? Even for storage purposes, transferring your firearms to another could be construed as a felony for weapons trafficking.
  • Own any NFA covered items? These cannot be in the possession of anyone lacking an NFA stamp or not listed on an appropriate trust.

Naturally the list of situations and possible law applications can seem endless. The important part is to consult a lawyer, get a recommendation in accordance with local ordinances, and do it immediately.

Other Lawyers

Remember that during asset division processes and negotiation, firearms are very valuable items. A collection can easily equate to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in value. The opposing lawyer may interpret the squirreling away of weapons as a means of hiding assets and use it against you. Be forthcoming in what equipment exists and what it's worth. For that matter, a lot of family-law lawyers are not experts in firearms and may not understand transference of ownership is not simply a paperwork drill for balancing material division between parties.

Furthermore, many opposition lawyers support their clients by advising them on their case to what seem like extreme measures. For instance, it's not uncommon to file a complete swath of charges like adultery, abandonment, emotional distress, etc. even when none of them are actually applicable. As mentioned before, it puts the opposite spouse [you] on the defensive faced with the onus of clearing all those matters. That said, some of those charges can make it particularly difficult to be a firearm owner as various new gun-control laws emerge.

EDIT: These actions by opposing lawyers may result in the new "Red Flag" statutes being used against you resulting in firearm seizure and a perception, that is now documented with the state, that you are unstable.

Perhaps among the most distressing situation is when the opposing lawyer advises the seizure of your firearms. It's done under the pretense that it's for their client's protection against you. Oftentimes, however, that lawyer may be advising an individual with no firearms training or safety awareness to be handling weapons. This can be especially distressing when firearms are mishandled around children - an irony given the advice is under the pretense of safety.

For example, I discovered my ex-spouse was storing a loaded shotgun (with one in the chamber) with the safety off in a closet within easy reach of our 3 year-old daughter. There were no locks of any kind securing the weapon. Most people simply have no idea what they are doing.

Countering Their Lawyer

Be advised, this option is pretty much a nuclear response. In the event your firearms were seized by the spouse - there is an incredibly strong chance they are committing a felony. This can be a powerful tool in court proceedings to achieve significant leverage in towards responsible behavior and safety practices. Does the spouse have a permit to possess the firearms? Are children exposed unsafely to the firearms due to negligent storage practices? Is the spouse handling them appropriately (e.g. loaded? muzzle awareness? safeties?)

Consult with your lawyer on how to proceed with this option.

  • You could tank your ex-spouse's future with huge fines, jail time, and unemployment. Obviously you will pay for this financially and emotionally in retribution.
  • You could encounter a non-2A sympathetic judge. Despite the felonies in progress, the court may simply choose not to care because you are "too scary" to be in possession yourself.
  • You could face a state that simply confiscates your firearms altogether without compensation.

Conclusion

Tread very carefully with firearms in a divorce. The best move a man can make is to remove weapons from the premises such that they can never be used against him in the name of "fear." Be cognizant of local laws in order to avoid inadvertently committing a felony in the process that will be used against you. The bottom line, always consult a lawyer and ask your local police.



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