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Spring Cleaning: Tips for Dividing Household Items During a Divorce

Springtime, like many things in life, is about perspective. For most of us, Springtime is a time for renewal and fresh starts–hence “Spring cleaning.” Not only do homes experience spring cleanings, but relationships do too. 

However, dividing household items during a divorce can be highly contentious if you’re not careful. Often, couples may have difficulty agreeing on who gets what, leading to lengthy legal battles that can be both costly and emotionally draining. 

With that said, we wanted to provide some thoughts on dividing the household that can help make your experience better than expected. 

Itemizing Household Items

Most people will likely shy away from this suggestion. It will seem like overkill and can take a great deal of time. However, it might depend on the amount of conflict you’re experiencing in your relationship. This idea can be incredible if you know there will be fights over who owns what. The more precise you are, the better. 

Generally, your items will be valued at “garage sale” values. This means that you will estimate the total value for all your furniture and furnishings at what you might get from the public if everything in your house was offered for sale at the curb. High-ticket items like electronics, special beds, artwork, etc. may be valued at what you could sell or auction them for, but if you insist on a high value for an item, you may need to produce a receipt for its purchase. 

Make a comprehensive list of all items in the household, with appropriate garage sale values.  Some people even take photos to prove the existence and condition of high-value or specialty items. This list should include everything from furniture and appliances to kitchenware and decorations. 

Once you have a list of all the items, you can start categorizing them based on their sentimental value and who purchased them. The idea is to get a big-picture view of what is owned and consolidate it into one place to be agreed upon and managed. You will be asked for the total estimated value of the furniture and furnishings on your financial disclosure forms, so the more accurate you can be, the better, as those documents are signed under penalty of perjury. Be truthful! 

Determining Who Owns What 

After making a list of all household items, it is essential to determine who owns what. This can happen in different ways depending on the health of the relationship. Compromise is the name of the game here–pick your fights wisely. 

Typically, an item purchased by one person before the marriage is considered separate property and belongs solely to that person. On the other hand, if an item was purchased during the marriage, it is generally regarded as marital property and subject to division during the divorce. 

The goal is to start a new life, so don’t argue over something such as house plants because of principle. This can be hard because our egos are screaming, but you must muffle these voices to get to the other side. 

Prioritizing Sentimental Value 

During a divorce, emotions can run high, and separating sentimental items from practical ones can be challenging. However, it’s vital to prioritize things of sentimental value and consider each person’s emotional attachment to an object. 

For example, suppose one person has an emotional attachment to a piece of furniture with significant sentimental value. In that case, it may be worth negotiating with that person to keep it to get something you’d appreciate more. 

Suppose you have a close friend or family member that can offer some focus. In that case, it can help manage emotions and sentimental value. Remember a support system during this time. While items may be personal and private, don’t let that perspective handicap you. 

Considering The Practicalities 

When dividing household items during a divorce, it’s also essential to consider the practicalities of each item. For example, if one person keeps the family home, they may need certain things to furnish it. On the other hand, if one person is moving into a smaller apartment, they may need more room for oversized items such as a dining room table or sectional sofa. 

It’s essential to be practical and considerate when dividing household items and to ensure everyone has what they need to start their new life. 

Seeking Legal Advice 

Divorce can be a complex and emotionally charged process, and it’s always advisable to seek legal advice to protect your rights. 

A family law lawyer can provide guidance on how to divide household items and can help negotiate a fair settlement. They can also advise on protecting your assets and financial interests during the divorce. In addition, most counties offer Property Arbitration if you simply cannot reach agreements on specific items.  

Dividing household items during a divorce can be tedious and emotional. You want to have a calm and collected head during the process. Be the adult and find a compromise where you can. Don’t try to be right all the time; just try to get through the event without too much stress. Keep looking ahead to what will be and stop yourself from looking back. 

Modern Family Law

Modern Family Law’s team of experienced divorce lawyers takes a compassionate approach to the practice of family law. Using innovative technology to create an effective and efficient process for our clientele, our attorneys approach each case as a collective effort to find the best long-term solutions for each family. We understand the financial burden a divorce can have on an individual. As such we have created our industry-first SimpleStart™ program, providing people a chance to reduce the amount of money needed upfront to start their case. For more information please give us a call or fill out a short form online to sign up for a free consultation today! Let us make a positive difference in your life.

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By: Elizabeth Voorhees, Esq.

Posted March 16, 2023

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