The Rights and Risks for Gun Owners in Divorce

  • The state's status as a community property state or a equitable distribution state comes into play for gun owners.
  • A child's proximity to the guns can negatively impact your divorce and custody case.
  • Guns' monetary values impact the division of assets within a divorce.

"While gun ownership is a right protected by the United States Constitution, gun responsibility needs to be of the utmost priority, especially during times of uncertainty and stress."

The Second Amendment gives citizens of the United States the right to bear arms, and that has been a right that we, as Americans, have taken full advantage of. There is an ever-growing industry based around gun ownership, and responsible gun ownership has become a hot button issue in this country. No matter where individuals stand on the issue, most Americans would agree that safety is the number one priority.

Safety also is one of the concerns when guns come up in divorce proceedings. Many couples involving gun owners fear violence, due to the breakdown of their marriages, and given the statistics regarding domestic violence and how the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%, the fear can be a reality for many estranged spouses and ex-spouses.

Division of assets

With the way property is divided during a divorce, it can make gun owners nervous during the divorce experience. A state’s status as a community property state or an equitable distribution state can determine who gets the guns in the divorce. If the gun was obtained during the course of the marriage, it becomes marital property that gets decided on during a divorce, unless it was a gift, was inherited, or purchased with separate funds that were either gifted or inherited, and separated from marital funds during the course of the marriage.

The registration does not play a factor into the decision. Keep in mind that even if the gun goes to the ex-spouse that is not a gun enthusiast, marital property still can be traded, as long as the trades are of approximate equal value.

Cordell & Cordell understands the concerns men face during divorce.

Child protection

Children also create an additional issue for courts handling divorces involving gun owners. If an underage child has access guns of any sort (whether it is the gun-owning parent’s or someone else’s while the child is in the custody of the parent), a petition to modify custody can be filed by an ex-spouse, who may believe their child to be in danger.

Given the seriousness of the situation, a court may act on an emergency basis and conduct a hearing much sooner than the several months it would typically take to schedule a custody modification hearing.

In situations like that, consistent contact with each parent can be established, but if a judge finds the situation significantly harmful, they have the authority to award sole custody to one parent and suspend or terminate the rights of another. That being said, courts rarely rule this way, but it is something to consider.

Proper storage

The storage of guns also can be taken into consideration when it comes to children. The United States Concealed Carry Association recommends that you make sure to secure your firearms carefully. During a divorce, some attorneys offer to store firearms, according to The Huffington Post.

Other options recommended is allowing a relative to store it in a safe and secure place, renting a storage unit and storing them there, or contacting a local police force and asking if they have the means to hold and store guns during a divorce.

Precautions attempted

There are some jurisdictions that have tried to pass laws to ban gun sales during the course of divorce proceedings. The state of Georgia has been in the process of working on legislation, SB250, to ban gun sales, without a judge’s permission, for people going through a divorce who have a violent history of behavior or a restraining order. SB250 would not prevent the spouse seeking to buy a gun for protection.

The thought behind the bill is to promote rational thinking and to prevent emotional decisions from being made. Opposition to SB250 claims that it is infringing on constitutional rights and is demonizing those going through a divorce. As to our knowledge at Men’s Divorce, the bill still is being debated and modified.

Financial value

Due to the various expenses involved in gun ownership, the financial aspect of the situation cannot be discounted.  Take for example a handgun. Between the gun itself, two different types of rounds you might find yourself interested in (jacketed hollow points and full metal jackets are very popular), eye protection, hearing protection, cleaning supplies, and the taxes, your cost can be over $700, according to Alien Gear Holsters, a concealed carry holster company.

Valuing guns comes down to the collectability of the gun, completeness of what the gun came with, correctness of whether all of the parts of the gun are supposed to be there, condition, and how it compares to the other similar guns, according to Real Gun Reviews. Blue Book of Gun Values also is a great tool, in assigning a value to a firearm.

The reason why a value would need to be placed on the firearms and paraphernalia involved is because the value of all of it needs to be taken into account in the division of assets within a divorce and budgeted accordingly into the priorities of the gun-owning ex-spouse, with the understanding that they may not get other assets that they want in the divorce, as a result.

Be responsible

While gun ownership is a right protected by the United States Constitution, gun responsibility needs to be of the utmost priority, especially during times of uncertainty and stress. The division of assets that divorce entails can create a personal vacuum, where you feel like assets are being swept away from you, but it is a matter of prioritization, in what assets you value and how much you value them.

Losing track of those priorities is a dangerous idea, given the seriousness of being a gun owner. Firearms are never to be taken lightly and should not be used by an ex-spouse unaware of the safety precautions needed in handling them. Prioritize your firearms and take responsibility for them as an asset in your divorce.

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