What Happens To Your Guns In A Divorce? Here Are Some Legal Facts

guns in a divorce

By Russell Knight

Divorce is a time when emotions run high. Having a gun in the home during a divorce can cause apprehension for either spouse. The apprehension of the unspeakable happening or merely an accusation that spins out of control.  Because the stakes are so high when a gun is present and a divorce is in progress, gun owners and their spouses need to know what their options are, legally, regarding what happens to your guns in a divorce.


A Gun Is Property


If a firearm was purchased before the marriage, the firearm will be deemed to be non-marital and, thus, a divorce court will not have the power to award the gun to any party other than the original owner.


If a gun was bought during a marriage, the gun is marital property.  That means the gun can be allocated by a court during the divorce to either party.


Typically, a gun labelled as marital property will be awarded to the person who has the license to carry the gun.  If so, the court will usually award half the value of the gun to the other spouse as their marital share of the gun’s value.


If both parties are firearms license holders, then they must agree as to who will keep the gun or the court will order the gun sold.  Guns are sold very easily at pawn shops and/or gun shows.


Because guns can be sold so easily, they sometimes act as a kind of currency: easily traded away without much trace.  Because of this, it may be a good idea to ask a court for an injunction order that prevents either party from selling any guns until the court makes a full inventory and ruling.


Guns And Children In A Divorce


Most states have strict laws about guns being in the house when children are also in the house.


Specifically, statutes usually require that both parents agree that the child can stay in the house if there is a gun in the same residence.


But, there’s also usually an exception for a properly stored and locked gun. If the gun owner is practicing the utmost safety practices, the law probably allows the gun owner to keep a gun if children are also in the house.


How can the other parent be sure those utmost safety measures are being taken? The other parent can simply ask.  If the gun-owning parent refuses they will soon be in court demonstrating their safety procedures to a family law judge who probably is not a huge fan of a gun/kid combo.


In fact, family law judges usually make all decisions about children based on the “best interests of the child.”  Good luck to anyone who tries to explain that having a gun around a child is in the child’s best interests.


Orders Of Protection And Guns


The 2nd amendment allows Americans to own a gun…under reasonable conditions.


Every state says that having an active order of protection against you means your right to own a gun is at least, temporarily suspended.


Typically, after an order of protection is issued against a gun owner, the gun owner must engage in a series of procedures whereby he or she surrenders their guns to the local sheriff until the matter is resolved.


If someone gets involved in a domestic dispute and calls the police, the first thing the police will ask upon arriving at the house is “are there any firearms in the house” and subsequently secure those firearms.


What To Really Do With Guns In A Divorce.


The Russian playwrite, Anton Chekov once remarked, “One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.” Of course, Chekov meant this as a literary device, but a loaded gun is liable to go off sooner or later. During a divorce, it will probably be sooner.


So, just sell the guns prior to or during a divorce.  No guns no problem. 


If either party is particularly attached to the guns, they can buy the exact same gun or the exact same model of gun once the divorce is over.


guns in a divorce


Russell Knight has been a divorce lawyer in Chicago, Illinois since 2006. Knight amicably resolves tough cases while remaining a strong advocate for his client’s interests.




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5 Responses to “What Happens To Your Guns In A Divorce? Here Are Some Legal Facts”

  1. Bryan Armstrong

    What happens if neither party have a license but all the guns are in one parties name . The other party can not buy guns legally because of threats made in the past

  2. Kevin johnson

    My wife wants my 9 mm Ruger which has my name on it.can I get in trouble if she gets in trouble with it.we are divorcing

  3. Scott Gaines

    I purchased a S&W SD9 9mm handgun in Fort Stewart GA. I was married at the time to my now ex wife. We moved to fort Carson CO in 2016 and in 2017 thing’s completely fell apart between us. I was deployed overseas for 9 months and when I returned she had moved a meth dealer into my house. I began going through all my stuff I had left behind and realized that my firearm was missing from where I had it. When confronted about it she told me she had it and would not return it. I was informed by the cops that because we were married there isn’t anything they can do about it. I finally got 100% custody of our kids and my uncontested divorce decree but it says nothing about the firearm. She is a current meth user and it’s all filed through the courts so is there a way I can report my gun stolen?

  4. Ryan

    My once loyal beautiful wife decided to betray my trust and unconditional love and thought it a good way to spit her now scorned venom in the form of keeping all of my guns and those of my father and grandfather that were left to me after they passed I see nothing in the divorce paperwork that even acknowledged the existence of them as I was in the hospital during my exs triumphant march sweep of gaining full custody of our beloved daughter allowing my ex full access to the accounts I had set up for our daughter subsequently cleaning them out for her own purposes is it legal for ex to just keep not only my guns but those left to me by family I’ve tried I’m born to reason and even offered to pay her for the safe return of my collection but she claims she will keep them and sell them what can I legally do and what am i legally required to do ?

    • Jay

      Hello Ryan, I, too am in a similar situation. I have rifles, handguns, and bows. They are of all sentimental value because my father and I hunted together with these before he passed away. I am a licensed owner but my ex is requesting half of my guns and bows.. needless to say she has never fired a high powered rifle nor pulled a 70lb bow or has ever set foot in wilderness to hunt. As an aside, she is even attempting to take an heirloom dining room table also.. needless to say she is at fault with adultery and being caught. Unfortunately in the state of Florida a spouse can do whatever they want and still benefit. Lesson learned never marry in Florida or any No fault states. Honestly I don’t think anything can be done with the guns other than let her have them or try to buy them for half the value from her. By the time you spend money on attorney fees you could have purchased probably the same gun 5 times over (sorry about the sentimental value). They benefit from conflict. Don’t five way to trapnof yoir emotions coating you a fortune.. I’ve done it and still came up short. It’s sad to say she will sell them but won’t sell them to you.


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