In some cases, dividing the small stuff in a divorce can be at least as
costly and time consuming as dealing with the big stuff. People often
have an emotional attachment to the small stuff even though the items
may not have monetary value.
The small stuff, called "personal property", includes items such
as dishes, linens, clothing, knick-knacks, furniture, art, computers,
and even the family pets. The personal property divisible during divorce
only includes those items purchased during the marriage that are not gifts
or inheritance. Items received as a gift, such as jewelry, would be considered
the separate property of the person and not subject to division in the divorce.
The first step in dividing the personal property is to make a list of all
of the "stuff" the spouses have and assess a value for each
item. Usually the value is what the item could actually sell for (like
at a garage sale) . Then, the spouses should identify the "stuff"
that each person wants. For items desired only by one person, the division
should be easy.
If there are items that each person wants, several methods of negotiation
can be used. For example, one judge in Collin County often orders the
parties to participate in the "coin flip" method. So, one spouse
flips the coin, the other spouse "calls it" heads or tails to
pick a disputed item on the list. Then the spouses take turns picking
an item until all of the items are gone.
If the spouses are unable to reach an agreement on how to divide personal
property, the issues can be presented to the judge in a trial for the
judge to divide. When this becomes necessary, I advise clients to think
about division of personal property from a cost-effectiveness standpoint.
Often, the cost incurred in attorneys fees to argue over division of the
personal property may very well exceed the value of the property or even
the cost that a spouse might incur to replace the item or items.
See our prior article
Custody Suit Over Pet Gets Expensive.
Hat tip to
Daniel Margolin of
The Oregon Divorce Blog for his post entitled
How to divide personal property in a divorce for the idea for this article.