How can I convince him to agree to my proposed distribution of assets?
I’m continuing a conversation that I’ve been having all week, about a woman I met at a recent Second Saturday seminar monthly divorce seminar for Virginia women. On Monday, I discussed the kinds of records you should have to prepare for your divorce, and on Wednesday I continued with a discussion about dividing personal property in divorce. (Like I said, this lady had a LOT of questions!)
She was also concerned about division of property, and how to assess the value of items. “Her” car was newer (with no loan on it; remember, here, we’re talking about equity, so how much the car is worth less any liability related to it) and worth more than “his”, which was older and in need of replacing. (I used quotes around his car and her car to represent the fact that, in this case, they’re marital assets in need of dividing in the divorce, not necessarily items of property belonging exclusively to that spouse.)
“How do I convince him that the value of the property he’s taking is worth more than the extra equity in the car?” she asked.
Though what she’s talking about – the value of cars versus personal property – is irrelevant for the purposes of our larger discussion, the larger question is relevant. How DO you convince him to accept a distribution of assets? It means he has to accept your valuation and then accept that what you’ve earmarked as his represents assets that he’s interested in acquiring.
In divorce, there are two options. Either you get divorced with a separation agreement, a legal contract that divides the assets and liabilities in the marriage, or you get divorced in court and the judge decides how things will be divided.
The answer is pretty easy. You make a proposal, and he either accepts it, rejects it, or makes a counterproposal. You don’t get to determine what things are “worth” to him, any more than you can arbitrarily set a value for the property and expect him to just accept it. In a separation agreement, we have no right of recourse, except for the fact that we can file for divorce and let the judge decide what to do with the assets.
In this case, she was trying to convince him that taking away a larger share of the furniture was worth him getting a car that was worth less. I don’t know his feelings about this furniture, but I sort of find it doubtful that he’d jump all over that deal. Most men don’t care too much about furniture, and he likely won’t need as much furniture for his own place as you need in a marital residence. Besides, it would require him accepting her valuation, which may or may not be accurate. (Value of personal property isn’t what it cost you to purchase or even what the replacement value is necessarily, though it depends.)
In this case, I think he’ll be unlikely to be appeased by master bedroom furniture. But what do I know? Maybe it’s gold plated.
Ultimately, though, you’re limited by what he’ll agree to and what the court will allow. It’s not just a question of assigning “values” to items, and making sure the items on each side of the list match up.
In most settlements, it’s also a question of what the items in question mean to you. You inherently attach more value to some things than to others, and it’s sort of a complicated process to determine what an appropriate valuation and, ultimately, division would look like.
Will the judge see it my way?
Maybe. I like that you’re thinking about this, and I think it’s a good idea to have these discussions with an attorney before you go to court.
As far as the car for some furniture debate, I think probably no – but, hey, I could be wrong. Remember, judges are as different as you and me, and have tons of different opinions.
You should have a continuing dialogue on this point as your case progresses, and continue to evaluate and reevaluate depending on the circumstances. In general, though, I think it is more often the goal of the judge to get it done quickly and equitably (which doesn’t exactly mean “fair”) than to take time coming up with creative solutions. If you want specific, creative solutions considered, you’re better off negotiating yourself.
Basically, you can get almost anything you want included in your divorce – assuming, of course, that you and your husband can reach an agreement on those points. You can’t force him to agree; without his signature on the separation agreement, your case will be in the judge’s hands.
For more information or to schedule a confidential consultation with one of our divorce and custody attorneys, give us a call at our office at 757-425-5200.