Q. My ex-lover and I had a big blow-up and last week and while I was at work she moved out of the apartment taking my stereo, most of my furniture, my family heirlooms, Christmas ornaments (I have a huge collection) and my cat. I don't want to go to the police but I would like to have my property returned. What are my legal rights?
A. One way to create legal property rights and protections for Illinois couples is to enter into a Civil Union. Absent a Civil Union, smart advice for all LGBT couples moving in together (and planning to live happily ever after) is to have a living together agreement contract to cover the possibility that "marital" bliss can end on a sour note.
Even without a written agreement the law provides a fast remedy to an owner of property who wants to recover possession of her property wrongfully taken. The remedy is called an action for replevin which is a special kind of lawsuit to determine who is entitled to possession of personal property.
The replevin statute in Illinois sets forth the procedure to recover personal property. It starts with the filing of a replevin complaint that describes the property, states that the person starting the lawsuit (the plaintiff) is the owner of the property and that the property is being wrongfully detained or withheld by someone else (the defendant).
The Clerk of the Circuit Court at the Richard J. Daley Center, has preprinted form complaints and summons for a replevin lawsuit. There are attorneys on the 6th floor of the Richard J. Daley Center who can offer assistance in completing the forms for the complaint and the summons.
The benefit of the replevin lawsuit is that it provides a fast resolution of plaintiff's property rights without the long delays that are normal in litigation. In a replevin lawsuit the plaintiff schedules the first or preliminary hearing and gives the defendant written notice of the preliminary hearing at least 5 days before it's date. At that first hearing the plaintiff must prove three things to the court. First, that he or she is the owner of the property. Second, it is likely that he or she will win at the trial. And that the defendant has wrongfully taken or withholds the property without the consent of the owner.