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Filing a Civil Suit Against a Former Roommate in Another State

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Before I left Northern Virginia (NOVA) and moved back to southeastern North Carolina, I had been living briefly with my now former girlfriend. Her last known address was in Annandale. Last July, I knew that our relationship was indeed over. I tried as best I could to get all of my personal belongings out of her apartment, but I wasn't able to do so. I ended up leaving behind a couple of thousand dollars’ worth of personal property, including a $400 college ring which was a very special piece of jewelry.

 

On July 20, 2015, I returned to NOVA after spending the last 1 ½ days in Richmond helping a couple of friends with some computer problems. I was delayed in my return to Annandale because a severe thunderstorm knocked out power in my friend’s neighborhood in Richmond. The outage began on the afternoon of July 19th and lasted for about six hours. I stayed until power was restored, because I wanted to make sure everything was working correctly on the equipment that I serviced. By then, however, it was very late in the evening. When I returned to my ex-girlfriend's apartment in Annandale the next morning, she was convinced that I had been fooling around with one of the friends I had been helping in Richmond. Despite my insistence to her that I hadn't, there was no convincing her otherwise. She then grabbed hold of me by my shirt, pulled her towards me, and smelled my shirt thinking that she would smell perfume. She didn't.  I knew then I had to leave, and by this time, I was fairly distraught. I ended up leaving the apartment without my keys and without my uniform for work. I needed both for later that day, so I had no choice but to go back to the apartment with a staff escort.  I knocked on the door and asked her to at least give me my work clothes and my truck keys. She didn't allow me to enter the apartment, but instead brought my work clothes to the door. She also took the keys to the apartment off my key chain before returning them to me. I now had no access to the apartment building or the apartment itself even though my name was on the lease at the time. I also had no access to the personal property that was still in her apartment.

 

Before leaving the apartment complex that morning, I knew had to at least get some of my things out of her place. Since I no longer had my own set of keys, I had no choice but to go to the apartment office and get a spare pair from the front desk. When I went to her third floor apartment with the spare pair of keys, I still wasn’t able to get in because she had bolted the door with the chain. She had already left for work, but her son was still there. She had ordered him not to allow me in the apartment.  Her son finally allowed me to come in and collect some of my personal belongings. I didn’t realize it at the time, but all that I didn’t take with me that afternoon was what I ended up having to leave behind when I returned to North Carolina. For the next few days, I stayed at a friend’s house and spent the night on the floor of his office trying to sleep on an inflated mattress.

 

While all of this is taking place, I learned that my father had been admitted to the hospital for salmonella poisoning almost 400 miles away in Wilmington, NC. My Dad is 78 years old and is dealing with other health issues including congestive heart failure and diabetes. Since I no longer had a place to live, and since my Dad needed help once he was released from the hospital, I decided to put in for a hardship transfer at my place of employment. Afterwards, I began making immediate plans to return to North Carolina.  I made one last attempt to get the rest of my personal belongings from my ex-girlfriend’s apartment before I left NOVA, but I wanted to do it without her being there.  I asked her to please respect my wishes on this request because I didn’t want to have another nasty confrontation. She refused to comply. I then said something in haste that I deeply regret. “Just give them to Goodwill.” I didn’t have time to argue with her and to go through another potential domestic dispute if she was at the apartment while I was attempting to retrieve my belongings. I had to get on the road and get back to North Carolina in order to assist a father who was in frail health.  I proceeded to the interstate, and I returned to North Carolina without collecting the rest of my belongings.

 

In the weeks afterwards, I made an attempt to contact my ex-girlfriend via e-mail to discuss possible options to get my belongings from her. I didn't get a response from her. The only thing she sent me was a couple of bottles of medication that I left in her apartment with a return address of Hanover, VA on the package. She also included a note (dated August 19th) saying, in a round about way that she given all of my belongings away. She also mentioned that she was no longer at her place of employment and to please leave her alone. I was furious.

 

I had presumed that she had left her job in NOVA and had moved back to the Richmond area where most of her family and friends live. Then, on September 20th, I received an e-mail from my former church in Fairfax where I was once a member of the Council.  I learned from the minutes of the meeting that she is still in NOVA, which made me wonder if she had lied to me about still being at her place of employment and possibly about other things.

 

I then sent her an e-mail when I learned the latest about her situation. Within a week, she had changed her e-mail address and her phone number in order to prevent my being able to contact her. If I chose to file a civil suit against her, then I would need a definite phone number and physical address in order to do so. I would also have to travel almost 400 miles back to NOVA in order to file this suit in person at the Fairfax County Courthouse. I can't do it via e-mail, regular mail, or by phone. I thought about hiring a lawyer to handle this matter, but then there is the issue of cost. I don't have very much money right now. I also don't even know if she is still in the same apartment that I shared with her when I left last July.

 

I welcome any suggestions or options as to what I could legally do to retrieve my belongings (assuming she might still have them).

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Unbelievably excessive amount of detail. You need to file, or have an attorney file for you, a warrant in detinue. Attach to it a list of the property you want to recover and an estimate of the value of the items. If the value of the property is less than $5,000 you can file in small claims court. Otherwise you need to file in general district court.

I am not going to go through the filing process but Fairfax County is good about publishing self-help guides. Obviously you need to find your ex-girlfriend to get the stuff back. Good luck.

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Assuming the case will be heard, have as many receipts as possible for the items you are trying to retrieve.  Photos of them, too.  While I can understand about the ring, you told her to give your stuff to Goodwill.  In essence, you relinquished your rights when it comes to the disposition of the items.

 

Even though I had a police escort to retrieve my things and my children's things, no officer wants to 'babysit' on moving day.  I've left a lot of things behind, some of them irreplaceable.  In the long run, no one can take my memories of those things and to be free from the situation is more valuable.

 

If you pursue this case, use the last known address you have for her.  You will know soon enough if it was 'undeliverable'.

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I'm brand new to having to consult an attorney. I wish it didn't have to be under these circumstances. I've already compiled a spreadsheet of all that I would like to have back. I've also made copies of the e-mails I sent (and tried to send to her)  to deal with this situation myself. What I left behind is worth somewhere in the vicinity of $2000. I feel very stupid and also very taken. When I said to just give what was left to Goodwill, I said that in haste, and that's my fault. In an e-mail I sent her not long after, I said that if the roles had been reversed, then I would have held off doing such a thing because chances are she didn't mean it. Then again, I'm not her. If she has given away all of my belongings, then she did it out of anger and for vengeance. She was very controlling and insecure.

 

I'm afraid I need educating on legal topics. What is a Warrant in Detinue? What can I do from NC since I can't go back to Fairfax County anytime soon? Should I consult an attorney who deals specifically with Tenant and Landlord disputes? If so, then can anybody on here give me some recommendations for offices in Northern Virginia? 

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First, given the value of your potential claim, you probably need to forget about using an attorney. Your claim falls under the jurisdiction of small claims court and, as RetiredinVA indicates, you should be able to find sufficient self-help resources on-line. I am also fairly confident that VA does not allow parties to be represented in small claims by counsel. Plus, you'd likely spend more in attorney's fees than you can ever hope to recover.

 

Second, if you freely admit in court that you told her to give your stuff to Goodwill, whether in haste or not, I expect you may have a difficult time winning your case.

 

Third, even if you do win a judgment, you still have to try to enforce  that judgment. The court does not do that for you, and this person does not strike me as someone who will write a check. You may have to try garnishing a bank account, etc.  And you are correct, you will need to find her to sue her . . . even more work for you.

 

So, while $2,000 is still $2,000, ask yourself, "is all the effort and aggravation really worth it?" Even small claims and be time consuming and stressful. Perhaps it would be better to close this chapter and move on with your life.  

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"Perhaps it would be better to close this chapter and move on with your life." You aren't the first person who has told me that, DumplinHoneychild. I'll be the first to admit that it's going to be difficult to let this one go.  Swallowing this bitter pill will probably will take longer than any judicial process I might pursue. If I pursued any kind of legal action at all, then I would prefer it be one that didn't have to involve an attorney, possibly a mediator. I don't know at this point. All of that will be even more difficult because of the distance involved. I've thought about calling her parents, who live in King & Queen County, but somehow I don't think I would get very much cooperation from them even if did my best to be assertive and polite.

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I do not know what your relationship is or was with the ex-girlfriend's parents, friends, relatives, etc., but contacting any of them in attempts to coerce the ex-girlfriend into returning your property or paying you the fair market value is likely to only ratchet up the tension and could even result in a restraining order being filed. Pursue small claims and follow the process. 

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I do not know what your relationship is or was with the ex-girlfriend's parents, friends, relatives, etc., but contacting any of them in attempts to coerce the ex-girlfriend into returning your property or paying you the fair market value is likely to only ratchet up the tension and could even result in a restraining order being filed. Pursue small claims and follow the process. 

I can appreciate that word of advice. I'll just say this. I need closure, and I won't find it by doing absolutely nothing. My plan as of right now is to pursue this without attorneys involved. I can't afford them. Besides, we're only dealing with about $2000 worth of belongings,  I appreciate everybody who has responded to this thread, and I still welcome your advice, but I'm not one to turn away from something that I feel strongly about--regardless of whether I win or lose. I've been a fan of the Washington Redskins all my life. If I can handle what I've seen my team go through during the last 16 years, then maybe I can handle this. Wish me luck.

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Unbelievably excessive amount of detail. You need to file, or have an attorney file for you, a warrant in detinue. Attach to it a list of the property you want to recover and an estimate of the value of the items. If the value of the property is less than $5,000 you can file in small claims court. Otherwise you need to file in general district court.

I am not going to go through the filing process but Fairfax County is good about publishing self-help guides. Obviously you need to find your ex-girlfriend to get the stuff back. Good luck.

I've filed a Warrant in Detinue. I can certainly understand why people say it's a tedious process, but that didn't deter me. I think it's worth the effort. Regardless of the outcome, I'm glad I'm doing this. It beats doing nothing. 

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Well, I sent the Warrant in Detinue to her via USPS. I found out today that she refused it. That didn't come as a big surprise to me. I have submitted the same court documents to the Fairfax County District Court. So, I'm guessing that even though she will eventually be served the same papers by the Sheriff's Department, she will probably choose not to appear. The only thing I'm curious about is whether or not her refusal to show in court will put her in contempt.  

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A warrant in detinue is not an arrest warrant. It is simply a claim for relief from the court. The name "warrant" is unfortunately misleading. She will not be in contempt for not answering or accepting it.

Thanks for the reply, RetiredinVA. So she doesn't accept it. She may not even show up for the hearing. I can see her doing that. So I'm there by myself presenting my case. If I'm fortunate enough to have the judge grant me at least some compensation for the $2000+ of personal belongings that I left in her apartment, then she will owe me that amount. I can see her refusing to pay also. Will that show up as a some sort of violation of a court order on her criminal record? I'm no expert, but it seems to me that her refusal to pay will cause issues for her later. 

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I'm sensing that this is not about your personal belongings but an effort to hurt your ex girlfriend.  This case will be heard in a civil court, not a criminal court.  The judgement may show up on her credit report but will not produce a criminal record.  The courts are clogged with cases such as this.  It is a misuse of the system, using the courts to get back at an ex.

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I'm sensing that this is not about your personal belongings but an effort to hurt your ex girlfriend.  This case will be heard in a civil court, not a criminal court.  The judgement may show up on her credit report but will not produce a criminal record.  The courts are clogged with cases such as this.  It is a misuse of the system, using the courts to get back at an ex.

I'm not trying to hurt my ex-girlfriend. shortygirl. Unfortunately, she and I did enough of that to each other at the end of our relationship. I just want my belongings back. I would have preferred that it not come to a face off in court. I was hoping we could somehow settle this out of court as amicably as possible, but she won't cooperate. If you can think of any other way to handle this besides doing absolutely nothing, then please share your thoughts. I can't afford to replace these belongings right now. I can barely afford the fee to submit the warrant. It will also cost me a little to make another trip to northern Virginia from southeast NC. 

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First of all, you have to have her served before there is any requirement for her to show up. If you manage to get her served, and get a judgement for the property or its value, that judgment will not show up on her credit report. The General District Court is not a court of record. That is there is no docket of judgments maintained in the General District Court. In order to have the judgment reflected on her credit report. You have to file an abstract of the judgment in the circuit court. Of course, you must understand that if she has already trashed your property, there is no way that you can recover your property through the court. So you're position that you are simply trying to recover your property may be totally illusionary.

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You know what? I'll be content if I can at least get some of the monetary value for my property back. If I can accomplish that, then this effort won't be in vain. I've had a least a couple of people on this forum tell me to just let it go. Well, if I had enough money to replace these items, then maybe I would. The only reason why I have a roof over my head right now is because I'm living with and taking care of my 78 year old father who is in declining health. I'm on family medical leave from my job, and I'm also sitting on about $16K in debt, so my options are limited. It will cost less for me to file this warrant and make a trip back to Northern Virginia than it will to replace what I lost. Do you still think I'm that illusional and naive?

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And what if you lose?  Are you prepared for that possibility?  If, even after all of this your careless comment to "give my stuff to the Goodwill" comes back to haunt you and you walk away with nothing?  We are trying to help.  Sometimes it's better to count it as a loss and just start over.  It's not easy.  I understand about your ring.  An ex of mine kept a nativity scene that had been in my family since before I was born.  Why?  I'll never know.  Perhaps because it was so precious to me.  I can never replace it.  I still have pictures of it.  No one can take my memories!  I have a new one that I am making new memories with.  Sometimes, that's all we can do.  I hope your fathers health improves and that life goes a bit smoother for you.  Let us know how things turn out.

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Yes, shortygirl. I realize that I could walk away with nothing and this will all be a waste of time. I'm prepared for that, and the hasty remark I blurted out about giving everything to Goodwill will more than likely be brought up again. In fact, I'm expecting it. I'm sorry about your nativity scene. The only other thing that might work in my favor to counteract that mistake is her taking my keys away from me when I still had belongings in her place and denying me entry into the apartment when I was still legally allowed to do so. At the time, my name was still on the lease. When I had a final opportunity to retrieve my things from her place, she refused to comply with my wishes that she not be there when I do. I just wanted to prevent another altercation, and I'm almost positive that's what would have happened if I had gone over there that day. I didn't need that. By this time, her behavior was becoming erratic and unpredictable. I wasn't going to risk it. Personally, I think she is lying to me. She has changed her phone number. She has changed her e-mail address. She has refused to accept the copy of the Warrant in Detinue that I sent to her. I know because I was tracking it on the USPS website. By the way, I have not been harassing her. Her behavior and actions are sending up too many red flags. She apparently has something to hide.

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Thanks for the reply, RetiredinVA. So she doesn't accept it. She may not even show up for the hearing. I can see her doing that. So I'm there by myself presenting my case. If I'm fortunate enough to have the judge grant me at least some compensation for the $2000+ of personal belongings that I left in her apartment, then she will owe me that amount. I can see her refusing to pay also. Will that show up as a some sort of violation of a court order on her criminal record? I'm no expert, but it seems to me that her refusal to pay will cause issues for her later. 

 

The only way any judgment will cause her issues later is 1) you take the extra steps to get the judgment on her credit report and 2) you go through all the steps to collect on the judgment. You do understand that neither the Court nor law enforcement will help you collect the judgment. You will need to take steps to garnish her wages, bank accounts, etc. (meaning you will have to also find out where she works and where she keeps her money).

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I'm no longer going to pursue this. That seems to be the general advice that I've been given by the people who have responded to me on this forum. I wanted to thank each one of you for your feedback. I know others have lost much more than I did, but this entire ordeal has felt like a "double whammy." My personal belongings were one thing, but what hurts worse is that this was somebody I went to high school with years ago. We were classmates, In fact, we reconnected in 2010 at our 25th reunion. Now, ugly disconnect as I try to pick up the pieces. Wish me luck.

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I hope the future is better for you.  Truly.  I know the type of loss you've experienced.  Life does go on.


 


How is your dad doing?  I hope he is better.


 


Take some time to evaluate why you made the decisions you made in the past.  Continue to seek guidance from knowledgeable people.  She might think she 'won' but, you have valuable lessons that no one can take from you!


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Hi, everybody, I'm back again. Unfortunately, this situation with my ex-girlfriend may not be over. This discussion may now move into another topic. In this case, fraud and defamation of character. This woman is beyond relentless. Here are some of the gory details:

 

This past week. I went through what felt like a small nightmare. I'm 48 years old, and I always enjoy going to my high school reunions. Last July, I had a very ugly ending to a relationship with a former classmate. Two months later, she began planning our 30th high school reunion on a Facebook page. In my opinion, she had an additional agenda. She had every intention of excluding me in part because we still had some unresolved issues with our former living arrangements. Last July, I had to leave over $2000 of my personal belongings behind in her apartment. She had taken away my key even though my name was still on the lease. Her behavior was also a little erratic at the time, and I didn't want to confront her again for fear of another altercation. I had to leave the state to help take care of an ailing father.

 

The issues between us began to escalate when she deliberately changed her e-mail address and phone number in order to prevent me from contacting her. When I tried to serve her with a Warrant in Detinue using her apartment address, I had it sent back to me with "MOVED" and "Return to Sender" written all over it in what looked like her hand writing. If she did in fact move, then I would have thought the letter would have automatically been forwarded to a new address. It wasn't.

 

The last straw came recently when I learned that she was the Organizer for our high school reunion Facebook page, and I wasn't invited. I learned through a friend that she was the admin for the Facebook group page advertising it. She blocked me deliberately, and then tried to convince the other members on the page that I was an impostor who didn't graduate with the group. The statement about not graduating with them was true. I had relocated to another state during my senior year.  However, it was very untrue that I was an impostor. She didn't reveal my name, but if she had, then everybody would have known she was "full of it" because I had grown up in that particular area. She was keeping me away because of my unfinished business with her, and also more than likely to instigate a private vendetta.

 

More complications began to arise when I attempted to contact another admin for the page in the hopes of being granted permission to see it. The situation "snowballed" into something that went well beyond ridiculous. My persistence to have the block removed from the Facebook Group page was mistaken for stalking and harassment. Before long, I'm being portrayed by my former classmates as a psycho on the warpath. However, they were not told who I was, which would have changed the situation dramatically. In the meantime, I was being kept up to date by a friend who did have access to the group page about what people on it were saying. Some of the things that they began talking about were not just ludicrous, but down right hurtful. They began talking about having bodyguards for the admin that I accidentally upset. They talked about cops at the reunion site. They even changed the meeting location for the second day of the reunion. I couldn't believe what was happening. My ex-girlfriend and former classmate deliberately excluded me from our 30-year high school reunion for personal reasons. It created a situation that resulted in my complete loss of interest in even going. It also created an ugly situation that hurt many more than just her and me. The reunion will still take place, but I have reason to believe even now that they have still mislead me about where the reunion itself is being held. The deception is unnecessary. After all that has happened, tell me this. Would you want to go?  I would have been willing to bury the hatchet with my ex during the reunion so there would be no problems, but that opportunity will never come. I'm deeply hurt over all of this.

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I just wanted to let all of you know the latest on this story. I'm back in northern Virginia. I've filed a Warrant in Debt against my ex-girlfriend. It has now been a year since all of this happened, but apparently, the statute of limitations hasn't expired yet. Court date will be August 12th. I'm not sure if she will show or not. That's her decision. I've compiled what I think is a strong case against her. I understand that I may lose. I also understand that even if I do win, then there is no guarantee I'll get anything from her. You know what, though? At least I can say I gave it shot. I prefer that over doing nothing. You can call me crazy if you want. Whoever remembers some of my past posts about this case were calling me that and more. Well, go ahead. I'm doing what I feel I must. Whether or not people like it is beyond my control. Wish me luck....if you want to.

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Hello, again everybody. Well, the day in court with my ex-girlfriend has come and gone. I was surprised by the turnout, but it was a nice surprise. It's a good irony when you can say something like that in a place like a courthouse. If any of you ever go to small claims court, then I would highly recommend something they offer as an alternative to facing the judge. It's called mediation. This is an edited version of the e-mail I sent to the mediation office who handled my case. 

 

"Last Friday (08/12/2016), I had a small claims case on the docket against my former girlfriend, I wasn't looking forward to that morning for a number of reasons. Then, I heard somebody announce an alternative to facing the judge. It was called mediation. Having never been in court before, I was unaware of this option. Under the circumstances, I was more than willing to consider it with my case against my ex. 
After two hours of negotiations, I'm happy to report that mediation for our case was without a doubt the best possible option. When the session first began, my ex wouldn't even look at me. She was also reluctant to agree to mediation, but fortunately she did. Although it seems like a very ironic place for this to happen, I think one of the reasons why the session was so beneficial for both of us is because it cleared up some misunderstandings that she and I had been carrying with us for the past year. For me personally, it also brought closure, forgiveness, and peace of mind. That to me was much more valuable than whatever value my lost personal belongings were worth. To go from not even wanting to look at me at the beginning of the session to an embrace at the end of it said a great deal, and I'm thankful for that.

If you could, please share this message with her too. I agreed to leave her alone, so I feel it best that you tell her. Thank you again so much for your service in helping us to resolve this matter amicably. Case dismissed."
 

 

Final Verdict.docx

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