Handbags and Rolexes: how to win the Chattels War.

Former Italian football player Francesco Totti’s separation has hit headlines again this week. 

Totti has accused his ex-wife Ilary Blasi of stealing his collection of Rolex watches, and is reported to have hidden her collection of shoes and designer handbags as a result. The celebrity couple had their first court hearing on Friday 14th October, and their possessions are now reportedly going to be separated by the court.

As a family & divorce lawyer, it never ceases to amaze me how tricky it is for a separating couple to reach agreement on who gets what and the sorts of possessions they will argue about. Many may have seen the photo from a Las Vegas court room in November 1999, where a couple had to divide their vast Beanie Baby collection between them under the supervision of the Judge, as they could not agree how they should be divided (feel free to Google this if you don’t believe me!). A colleague of mine stayed at court late into the night once when everything had been agreed on except how the Koi carp were to be shared out.

Happily, the intervention of the court is fairly unusual when it comes to dividing up jointly owned, household contents (known rather archaically as “chattels”) primarily because the cost of the legal fees to do so is far more than the value of what is being argued over! 

What’s more usual is that in the financial agreement reached between the couple, a clause will be included that states that their chattels are to be divided by agreement by a certain date (usually tied into the sale of the family home, or 4 – 8 weeks from the date of their agreement). If no agreement can be reached, it is possible to then make a court application for a judge to decide on the division. The most common way that a judge would deal with this is for the couple to take turns in saying which items they want to take, or occasionally, for the chattels to remain with the person who is physically in possession of them. 

That being said, personal possessions that belong to one or other of a couple as opposed to being jointly owned eg jewellery, watches, or designer handbags in this case, are rarely factored into discussions as they aren’t generally considered to be joint assets. 

What’s evident is that stealing your spouse’s possessions is only going to lead to further animosity and litigation, as can be seen from Totti’s separation, and ultimately I imagine the items in question will be ordered to be returned to their rightful owner. Arguably a waste of legal fees and court time that a judge would not be impressed with – so be warned if you are considering doing the same!  

'What could I do? I hid her handbags, hoping we could trade,' Totti had told the Italian outlet in an interview.