Q: What can I do to get my belongings back from my boyfriends mother?

For context, my boyfriend and I ended up losing our home and living in his moms basement for a couple months. I found out I was pregnant and soon after, him and his mom had gotten into an argument about the way we were being treated there. (Not being able to do laundry, being accused of things we never did, being threatened over minimal things such as having his dog in our room which his mother stole.) Long story short, he did slight damage to a door and his sister didn't catch the remote she asked him for and it ended up barely hitting the TV and causing damage. We were and still are visibly struggling to get on our feet. She kicked us out and refused to give us any of our belongings unless we give her $800 which is $250 more than what the TV and door cost combined. She has our diplomas, clothing, and my invisalign which my parents are still paying for. What can I do in this situation to get at least some of it back? Also, I caused no damage and she wants $300 from me alone.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: Based on the situation you've described, here are some potential steps you could consider:

1. Document everything: Make a detailed list of all your belongings that are still at your boyfriend's mother's house, including any items of particular value or importance.

2. Attempt negotiation: Try to communicate calmly with your boyfriend's mother to reach a compromise. Explain your financial situation and offer a reasonable payment plan if possible.

3. Seek legal aid: Contact local legal aid organizations or law clinics that offer free or low-cost legal advice. They may be able to guide you on your specific rights in this situation.

4. Small claims court: If the value of your belongings is within the small claims court limit in Ohio (currently $6,000), you could consider filing a case there. This is often less expensive and doesn't require a lawyer.

5. Police assistance: You could try contacting local law enforcement to see if they can assist in retrieving your personal property. However, they may view this as a civil matter and decline to intervene.

6. Demand letter: Consider having a lawyer write a formal demand letter to your boyfriend's mother, which might encourage her to return your belongings without further legal action.

7. Focus on essential items: If you can't get everything back immediately, prioritize retrieving your most important items like your diplomas and Invisalign.

8. Emphasize your non-involvement: Stress that you personally caused no damage and should not be held responsible for your boyfriend's actions.

Remember, in Ohio, deliberately withholding someone's personal property can potentially be considered theft or conversion. However, the situation is complicated by your previous living arrangement and the property damage issue.

It's important to note that while the boyfriend's mother may have a claim for damages to her property, she generally doesn't have the right to hold your personal belongings as collateral. Her proper recourse would be through small claims court or other legal channels.

Given the complexity of the situation and the potential legal implications, it would be best to consult with a local attorney who can provide advice tailored to your specific circumstances and Ohio law.

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