How To Divide Personal Property in a Divorce
Who gets the couch and who gets the flatware? Who gets the TV in the living room? Who gets the TV in the bedroom?
Let's talk about something really practical: How to divide personal property in a divorce.
The law says that marital property should be equitably divided when you get divorced. So that’s pretty much all property that you and your spouse got during the marriage minus anything that either of personally inherited or gifted.
I’m not going to get into the nuances of classifying property here.
This is about being practical.
I’m all about getting things done.
Of not letting the good be the enemy of the perfect.
I want to help you move forward not drown in an endless debate of whether this thing or that thing is marital or not.
So let’s get to it.
I recently attended a private divorce mediation where I learned two excellent, super practical, ways to divide up personal property.
Fair warning though: Do not use these methods if you want to move your divorce forward.
If you want to squabble over who gets each and every thing, then click away immediately.
If you think your happiness after the divorce depends on which furniture you get, the door is over there. I know I sound harsh, and I’m sure there are some keepsakes that you can’t imagine letting go of, but I’m really trying to push you into a mindset of understanding of what really matters here. Moving forward. Be brutally practical and I highly doubt you’ll message me in a year and say gee Bobby, I really wish I was fighting over the garden hose still.
People really do fight over the garden hose you know.
Ok so what are these magical methods? So I was in this mediation with a retired divorce judge and a well-respected divorce lawyer who had been practicing for at least 15 years or so. Each had their own suggested way of splitting personal property.
The judge also mentioned that in her 20 years on the bench had she ever had to split personal property. It just doesn’t make sense for a judge to do it when there are much more practical and common sense ways of getting it done.
Let’s start with the lawyer’s method.
I call it the “glass door number 1 or glass door number 2” method.
Method: Glass Door Number 1 or Glass Door Number 2
Start by making an inventory of all the personal property that needs to be split. That is, everything that you and your spouse got during the marriage (sure, you can exclude gifts directly to you or things your inherited - just decide on those ground rules first).
Ok, so now you have one long list.
Now one person is going to be the divider and the other is going to be the chooser.
This should sound familiar. We’ve all been using this method to split up the last piece of cake or candy since we were in 1st grade.
If you can’t decide on who is going to be the divider, flip a coin for it.
Don’t overcomplicate this part - or any part for that matter.
Ok - now the divider is going to get to work. Take a fresh piece of paper and make two lists - list 1 and list 2.
There is only one rule: all items need to be included between the two lists.
After the two lists are made, the chooser chooses which list that they want.
Ok, here’s the second method - the retired judge’s method. I call this one “the Draft”.
Method 2: The Draft
Step 1 is the same: make a list of all the property you are going to split up.
Now, flip a coin to see who picks first.
Then just alternate picking until all the items have been divided.
Don’t overcomplicate this. Just because it’s divorce, and it’s a legal proceeding, doesn’t mean it has be complicated.
Be practical. Be smart. Move forward.