How to divide personal property in divorce

Posted on Aug 26, 2013 by Katie Carter

Tension is normal when you and your husband are trying to decide how to divide up years and years of belongings. I usually tell my clients not to worry about personal possessions, but that’s easier said than done. After all, these things are the things that surround you every day. In many ways, these things make up your life, and you grow attached to them over time—even if they are just things.

In most cases, though, the things that you and your husband want are not the same. Most men are content to let their wives take the stand mixers, the antiques, and the jewelry, preferring instead to keep the power tools, the golf clubs, and the televisions for themselves. In some places, your interests may coincide, though, and you need to be prepared to handle these disputes as they come up. Sometimes, the fights over personal property are some of the most heated fights in an entire divorce.

Where the items of personal property have value, it’s not a bad idea to get them appraised before you sit down to divide them. It’s best not to just take his word for it, unless he is erring in your favor. For smaller items, or items without any real resale value, it’s probably best to just divide these things without wasting too much time. There’s really no sense arguing over towels or bed sheets!

Cars and boats also fall under the personal property heading, even though these are much bigger items than muffin tins and casserole dishes. Your attorney can help you with this, but remember that the goal here is to attempt to equalize value. It’s not so much a you take your car, he takes his kind of situation as it is as real attempt to make sure both parties are walking away after the assets are equitably divided.

Remember, too, that anything you owned prior to marriage, anything you inherited, and anything that you were given by someone other than your husband before or during the marriage is your separate property, and isn’t considered when you’re trying to determine what’s equitable.

Keep these pointers in mind as you try to divide your property and, ultimately, remember that all your personal property can be replaced. If you and your husband can’t agree on how your property is going to be divided, it’s often going to be more expensive and more time consuming to involve an attorney than the property is worth. Before you fight over something, try to analyze whether it’s really worth it to you. Is the property in question a priceless original painting, or the ice cream maker that sits under the cabinet and you never really use anyway? It’s important to keep some perspective as you move forward, and avoid spending your dollars where it won’t really make a difference to you in the long run.