Dividing the Little Things
Courts are well versed in assisting couples in dividing their marital assets. There is the law and substantial case law that informs how the marital home, automobiles, 401k plans, pensions, retirement accounts, bank accounts, businesses or business interests, and brokerage accounts get divided among the divorcing spouses. While a difficult process, the outcome is a fair distribution of the marital assets.
When it comes to the little things, however, the divorcing couple is on their own. Many attorneys draft clauses in the settlement agreement that the parties will divide all personal property or the little things on their own. Courts too often refuse to make decisions on the division of small items because it is time-consuming and the items themselves have little monetary value and are more emotionally valuable to the divorcing spouses than anything else.
Sweating the Small Stuff
No one likes uncertainty. When it comes time to divide the personal items you and your spouse collected during your marriage, refer to these guidelines often – particularly when the process becomes overwhelming.
- Keep in mind that the little things are not simple or trivial but laden with emotions.
- Items and personal effects have different meanings to different people. Just because you think it is trash does not mean your spouse does not treasure the item.
- Conflict will happen but it can be managed.
- Doing nothing is not an option.
- Limit personal contact. Emotional trauma and spite should be left out of the process entirely.
- Give and take.
- Ask your spouse what he or she wants ahead of time.
Create a Division System
Prior to dividing the little things, the divorcing couple should set up some rules and parameters on how items are to be selected, or a division system. The idea behind this is that if you buy into the process, you are more likely to buy into the outcome, even if you do not get everything that you want.
If you stick to a system you both create then you will not tear each other apart when you try to divide the assets.
A Note on Spiteful Decisions
A woman in New York took two crystal chandelier fixtures when she moved out of the marital residence during her divorce proceedings. They were worth $300,000, and she sold them for $13,000.
The judge in the matter was not happy with her behavior and ordered the value of the chandeliers to be deducted from the 5-million-dollar, lump-sum payment she was owed under the prenuptial agreement. In the end, her spiteful actions only hurt her. If possible, leave emotional trauma and spite out of the when dividing marital assets.