During a marriage there are material items a couple has acquired over the course of their relationship. When unraveling the marriage the question of who will take what with them becomes a topic that must be addressed. One of the main sections in a settlement agreement is a property division agreement. If the divorcing spouses can agree on who will get what it can save the couple thousands of dollars in attorney fees. It will be very expensive for a couple to pay their attorneys to negotiate about household goods and personal possessions. The cost of paying an attorney to divide the items will most likely cost the divorcing couple more money than the value of the items in question. It will be less expensive for the couple to solve these differences themselves or with the help of a neutral third party such as a neutral friend or a Mediator. Judges are not interested in spending time dividing household goods or personal possessions between the parties and may even view the requests for decisions on such items as a waste of their time. This can result in the property being divided in a way that is not beneficial to either party.

Following are some discussions to help you and your spouse avoid problems with the process of dividing your household goods and personal possession which will save you the cost of legal fees required if your attorneys are called in to do the dividing for you.

1. Suggested Ways to Divide Household Goods and Personal Possessions

1. Agree

A. Start by making a list of all household goods and personal items in the house. You will both need to agree on the contents of the list as well the value of each item. Some items to consider are: furnishings, jewelry, appliances, kitchen cookware, photos, tools, patio items, garage items, lawn mowers, holiday decoration, electronics, movies, books, etc… Make sure to canvas every room in the house to ensure your list is complete.

B. Review the list you have made to see if there are items you both agree were a gift to the other person, belonged to the other person before the marriage, or have certain sentimental value to one party. These items will need to be put on a separate list labeled Exempt Property. This property will then go to the designated person.

C. Then go down the list and agree on who will receive each item that is not Exempt Property. If one person has more value in property, based on your agreed values that person will then need to make an equalization payment to other person for the value of the difference in property.

2. Draft

A. Follow steps A and B from Section 1 Agree.

B. Create a draft such as a Football draft. Flip a coin to see who gets the first pick at an item.

C. The first person picks the item he or she wants. The second person will then pick an item of equal value or a number of items to make up the same value.

D. You both continue selecting items until there are no more items on the list. In the end both of you will end up with property of equal value.

3. Silent Auction

A. Follow steps A and B from Section 1 Agree.

B. Each person will submit a bid for every item on the list. The person who submits the highest bid on the item will be awarded the item.

C. The value of the items retained by each person will be added up. If one person has more value in property, based on your agreed values that person will then need to make an equalization payment to other person for the value of the difference in property.


2. Suggested Ways to Value Your Household Goods and Personal Possessions

1. Agree

Unless an item is brand new the purchase price is not important therefore, do not base your values off of what you paid for the item if it is not brand new. You have the option of using the value if the items were to go to an auction however, this can result in an artificially low value. You can also base the value of the items off of what you would be willing to pay someone for the item tight now.

2. Average Your Value and Your Spouse’s Value

Make a list of the items you and your spouse cannot agree what the values of the items should be. Each of you review the list of items that you cannot agree on and separately value the items on it. Then take an average of the two values and use that value as the value of the item.

3. Appraise

You can have your entire household appraised by an accredited appraiser. This will cost you a fee which generally ranges from $200 to $400, depending on the number of items. The fee could reach into thousands of dollars if antiques and collectibles are involved in the appraisal.


3. What to Do About the Children’s Items

It is always difficult when there are children involved and some of the property belongs to your children or is for your children’s use. In these cases, it is best to agree on what are legitimate children’s items and divide these between the both of you in accordance with your children’s wishes, the amount of time your children spend with each of you, and the nature of the item. It is very important to be reasonable and moderate in your discussions when you divide your children’s things.

Remember in most child sharing arrangements it is inevitable a child’s favorite things will be taken back and forth from each house. Things you buy for your child may not stay in your home. Use this is an opportunity to teach responsibility for property to your child and let them know they are responsible for keeping track of their items when traveling back and forth from each of their homes.