I am often asked, “What do we do with all the stuff in the house, and how are household items divided in divorce?” This inevitable question is guaranteed to come up during the divorce process, and the short answer that I give is, “Let’s talk about it.”
Every couple’s situation is different, so what works for one couple may not work for another couple. I thought it would be helpful to talk about some creative solutions clients have done in the past regarding household items and how to determine an equitable split that works for everyone.
Let the Judge Decide on How the Property Should Be Divided in Divorce
Obviously, this isn’t the ideal situation. A judge doesn’t know (or frankly care) how much Aunt Millie’s dining room table means to you. However, for couples who can’t decide on their own what to do with their stuff, this is precisely the scenario that will play out. A judge will order who gets what, or maybe even worse; a judge could order you to liquidate or donate everything, and then no one’s interests are met.
Seek Help from a Third-Party Neutral and Professionals
With the help of a Divorce Mediator, you can talk about items and things in the home and have a conversation to help determine who will end up with what. Clients have found success posting a list in every room in the house. That list has three columns, husband, wife, both. If both are selected, then only those items need to be discussed. Some clients choose to have household items appraised to value items that will be split in the divorce. Others have agreed that they will either donate or sell whatever they do not agree on and split all proceeds equally. The benefit of divorce mediation is the parties decide on the process.
Commonly Discussed Items in Divorce:
How do you split up family photos, VHS tapes, digital phone videos, etc.?
Many clients have changed with technology regarding images. If most of your photos are digital, sharing them through Dropbox, Amazon Photos, Apple Photos, etc., should be relatively easy. Walgreens, CVS, and various companies offer a service to take all your photos and scan them, so each party has a digital copy. Same with VHS tapes.
Many people forget about their digital music collection and downloads. A conversation about ownership and ways to share should take place if people have significant digital music collections.
Heirlooms and Sentimental Items
Hand-me-downs, furniture, jewelry, etc., may have sentimental meaning for many people going through a divorce. It is good to address these items in advance or have a list of items prepared to discuss so that last-minute arguments can be avoided. When it comes to deciding whether or not to keep certain things or objects, clients often consider people’s input like a professional organizer and author Marie Kondo to see if the item brings them joy or not.
Tools, Lawn Equipment
When considering who gets the mower, does it make sense to you if you are moving to a condo where lawn service is provided? As with tools, who was the primary user of the tools? Are any family heirlooms?
As a general rule, it is safe never to assume that someone will “get” an item in divorce. Unless a conversation has taken place, then conflict areas are most likely to occur regarding household items. With the help of professionals, and if the parties are organized and educated, deciding household items should be a relatively smooth process.