Questions for a Family Attorney: Can a Spouse Sue the Other for Theft?

For couples that are separated, it’s not uncommon to think that one spouse may want to steal a valuable piece of property that is considered joint property. Now the question is, if one spouse takes something without permission, can the victimized spouse sue the other for theft? The general answer is no, but North Carolina doesn’t really have any specific cases that can give a definite answer to this question.

However, there are certain situations where this general rule might not apply. Questions such as the one above often arise when a couple has separated, so here are some tips to keep in mind to protect your assets.


There are some things that a spouse can do to protect his or her assets after a marital separation. For instance, to keep a piece of property or asset from being taken, you can tell your spouse to stay away from your home. If you tell your spouse this and he or she still proceeds to enter the property and take the asset, that can be a basis for a theft charge. Even if you didn’t issue such a warning, under some circumstances you could attempt to charge your spouse with breaking and entering. Ask a family attorney about possible workarounds that are relevant to your particular situation.

Separation agreements

If there is a document or agreement that states what property belongs to the spouse and the other spouse still takes it nonetheless, then the offending spouse is most likely committing larceny. However, this agreement shouldn’t contain clauses stating the release of all claims during marriage. Otherwise, any claim for theft will be ignored by the court.

Malicious intent

If the offending spouse takes the property or asset with the intention to make it his or her own or destroy it in bad faith, criminal charges could be brought against him or her. However, if the intent was to deprive the owner spouse of his or her property or asset temporarily, the offense may be viewed as a domestic issue and not a criminal issue.

Moving forward

Even if you are only separated, it can be helpful to your situation to talk to a Raleigh divorce attorney as soon as possible. Aside from informing you about the best legal avenues to take, your lawyer can help you draft a separation agreement that can protect the assets and properties that you wish or intend to keep.


  • Larceny: Spouse vs. Spouse Edition,
  • Can You Sue a Spouse for Theft?