As a Dallas divorce lawyer, one of the most frequently asked questions I receive is how can a client control the costs of his or her divorce. Understandably, clients expect top notch service in a cost effective manner. One of the more costly aspects of any divorce involves dividing up the community estate. I recently came across a great blog post that offered some practical ways to help keep costs down in dividing the community estate. Although the focus of the post dealt with dividing personal property contained in the home, a lot of the suggestions are applicable to dividing other parts of the community estate. Here are the tips:
1. One spouse makes two lists of the personal property. The lists should contain property roughly of equal value and the spouse who didn’t make the list gets to pick which list of property they want. Because the spouse who didn’t make the list gets to pick first, there is an incentive to make the lists as equal as possible — otherwise the drafting spouse will get burned in the process.
2. Hold a silent auction. This creative method allows the parties to ensure they get the property that they really want. In the silent auction approach, each party blindly puts a dollar value next to a piece of property that is listed out on a sheet. Since the parties don’t know what dollar amount the other placed on the property, the process is pretty fair to all involved. The spouse with the highest "offer" on a certain piece of property gets to keep it. Once the auction is over, then the parties add up the total winning bids and divide the property accordingly.
3. Arbitration. Alternative dispute methods, such as arbitration, are frequently used in divorce cases. Although there is a cost associated with using alternative dispute methods, couples can use an arbitrator to divide the community estate which is typically less expensive than presenting the matter to a judge.
4. Rotating lists. In this method, the parties simply make a master list of all their property and then take turns selecting one item at a time that they want to keep. Spouses can simply flip a coin to see who gets to go first.
Bottom line is that there are many creative ways to divide up property fairly, and in a cost effective manner. Hat tip to the Minnesota Divorce and Family Law Blog for the idea behind this post.