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How to divide household goods in a divorce

On Behalf of | Apr 30, 2024 | Divorce |

Dividing your possessions in a divorce can be challenging – but many people find that splitting up the “big stuff,” like houses, cars and bank accounts, is less fraught with psychological turmoil than the process of splitting up all the household goods.

Why is there such a big difference? Well, people often get attached to the possessions they surround themselves with, and many mundane objects – from the wine glasses that were a wedding gift to the painting you bought on your first vacation together – can have tremendous emotional significance. That makes their true value much higher than their actual cost.

So, where do you start? Here are some guidelines that might make it easier:

1. Start with a wish list and open communication

You only have to worry about dividing the things you both want, so rule out everything else first. Each of you should make a wish list for the household items that you want to take with you in the split and compare them. If your spouse wants the craft supplies and you want the yard tools, you can agree to that divide and turn your attention to the things that are on both of your lists.

2. Decide on some ground rules for dividing what is left

You’re free to come up with any ground rules you want, but it’s generally easier to agree to keep “sets” of items together. For example, keep the living room set together and don’t split up the china set. That helps keep things practical.

Then, to make things fair:

  • Make an inventory of everything that still has to be divided.
  • Flip a coin or draw cards to decide who gets the first choice.
  • Take turns rotating through the items and selecting what you wish to keep.

That forces you both to prioritize what you want the most and can make the entire process fairly quick. While neither of you will get everything you want, neither of you will walk away empty-handed, either. (An alternative option is to divide the contested items into two piles of roughly equal value, and then flip a coin to see who gets to pick the pile they want. While even faster, you lose the ability to prioritize better.) 

3. Seek legal guidance if you get to a sticking point

If there are a few items that neither of you are willing to give up, you may need to seek professional assistance. Often, a third party can help you step back from the emotions of the situation and navigate the divide.

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