When you are going through a divorce, you have to find a way to separate yourself from your spouse in a way that will allow you to move forward with your life. While the decision to separate is a very personal and emotional one, there are still other changes that come with this process, including the division of what you and your spouse owned. In a divorce, couples have to divide their shared property, including everything from the sofa in the den to the savings accounts.
A significant part of the divorce process is deciding how the property of the marriage will be split, and this is mainly focused on bigger assets such as the family home and investment accounts. Deciding how to split the more personal and smaller items, however, can be just as challenging and tedious as dealing with the larger assets. This personal property division is often left to you and your spouse to negotiate and agree on. If you can’t agree, your attorneys and possibly even the court will have to become involved.
If you are at the start of your divorce, it’s important to know what to expect when assets are divided, and this includes the “little” things. Keep the following in mind as you approach property division in your divorce.
Sole, Private Possessions
Certain items that only belonged to one of you–such as family heirlooms, your clothing, and gifts that you alone received–will likely remain with you after a divorce, and the same applies to your spouse. These types of items usually aren’t subject to property division. Shared items, however, such as tools and furniture, are often considered “community” property, which makes them subject to division.
Determination of Value
In a divorce, a couple’s shared property has to be appraised so the property can be divided in a way that is fair. This means both of you have to agree on the values of all your possessions. With household and personal items, the value is often clear. Exceptions would be items with a high value, such as collectibles or fine china. If necessary, you and your spouse can hire a third-party appraisal expert who can set the value of high-value items you can’t agree on.
Once you know what your items are worth, it’s time to consider what you wish to keep. It’s important to prioritize here so you don’t end up losing items that have personal value to you in exchange for things you would have been fine leaving behind. Make a list of the items you want to keep for your family law attorney. This will help guide the division process in a way that prioritizes what is truly important to you.
Be Prepared to Negotiate
Divorcing couples often do not agree on every single thing in the asset division process. However, mediation and other divorce approaches can help you and your spouse reach agreements on the property division on your own, without the court having to step in and make the decisions for you. Be ready to compromise during this phase of the divorce, with your items-to-keep list as your guide.
Know what you are willing to let go in order to get what is most important to you. For example, would you give up a portion of the investment account in return for all the furniture in the family home? Are you willing to trade your portion of a collection in exchange for the family vehicle you prefer? Whatever your position, needs and wants are, make sure you discuss them in full with your attorney first so they can guide you through this process.