How to Divide Your Personal Property in a Divorce
In a divorce, you and your spouse will need to divide up your combined personal property, including household furnishings and automobiles, equally — or as close to equal as possible. If you and your spouse plan to try to divide your property yourselves, here are some tips to get you started.
Steps to Take
The process of dividing your personal property in a divorce can be broken down into a few simple steps.
- First, make a list of all of the items that you own.
- Next, figure out which items are community property and which items are separate property. (The items that are categorized as community property will need to be divided, while each spouse will keep his or her separate property.)
- Then, determine a value for each item that falls under the category of community property.
- Finally, take turns stating which items you want from the list of community property until each spouse has reached half the value of the list.
Assigning Values to Your Household Items
The category of household items typically includes furniture, kitchen items, books, linens, and so forth. Dividing these items fairly between spouses can problematical, particularly since you have to put a valuation on each individual item or set of items.
Generally, the standard for valuing household belongings is the fair market value if you sold the item “as is” in its current condition. There are several ways to go about determining the fair market value of your belongings.
- You can confer with your spouse and decide on a valuation for the items together.
- You can look on Internet sites, such as eBay or Craigslist, to see what others charge for similar household goods.
- You could also go to second-hand stores, such as Goodwill, and see how comparable items are priced.
- Alternatively, you may hire an independent appraiser to set values for your household items.
Remember that most items decrease in value significantly after they have been purchased. That bedroom set that you purchased together five years ago for $2,000 is probably not worth a whole lot today, perhaps only a couple hundred dollars.
Tips for Dividing Up Certain Sentimental Items
Some items bring up more emotions than others and can be difficult to value and divide. For example:
- Wedding gifts. Usually the easiest way for spouses to divide up wedding gifts is to agree to keep the gifts that were given by that spouse’s family or friends.
- Photos. Often, both parties want to keep the family photos. If you both want the same photos, make copies and split the cost.
- Other sentimental items. While other sentimental objects, such as your child’s artwork, do not have actual monetary value, deciding who gets what can be very upsetting for most parents. It is often best to simply take turns choosing among the items.
How to Assign a Value to Your Vehicles
Vehicles, as opposed to household goods, are considerably easier to value. This is because there are only a few variables that affect the value of a car, such as the exterior condition, interior condition, mileage, and mechanical condition.
The easiest way to value your vehicle is to refer to the Kelly Blue Book or the National Automobile Dealers Association (N.A.D.A.) Used Car Guide. You can find a version of these guides online at www.kbb.com and www.nadaguides.com, or you can purchase a copy of either guide from booksellers such as Amazon.com. If the guides provide different values, average the amounts and use that as the valuation.
One issue to note is that the Kelly Blue Book and NADA Guide do not take unrepaired mechanical problems into consideration when assigning a value to a vehicle. If you have a car with existing mechanical issues and want to determine the proper valuation, you can take the vehicle to a mechanic who will provide an estimate of what it would cost to repair it. Then, subtract the estimate from the vehicle’s value as stated in the guide before including it in the marital estate.
Items That Are Not Part of the Marital Estate (Separate Property)
Certain items are considered a spouse’s separate property and do not have to be valued or divided up in a divorce. For example, if your spouse received a piece of jewelry in 2010 from her mother that she always wears (say a diamond ring) and you were married in 2011, that ring would not be considered marital property. Rather, it is your spouse’s separate property because it was given to her exclusively, she received it before you were married, and it was kept separate.
In addition, some things that are acquired during the marriage may be considered separate property depending on where the money used to purchase the item came from. For example, if you inherit money during the marriage, then that money is your separate property. Also, whatever you buy with the inherited money becomes your separate property as well. Let’s say you inherit a large sum of money that you use to purchase a piece of undeveloped land in wine country. This would be considered your separate property.
When you are deciding if a particular item is community or separate property, look at the source of the money used to buy the item. (If you have any doubts or questions in this area, an Oceanside divorce attorney can advise you about which of your belongings are marital, and which ones remain separate.)
Disclosing Your Assets
In a divorce, each spouse must disclose all of his or her assets and debts (community and separate) to each other. The key thing to keep in mind is that you should be completely honest and be sure to disclose everything of value that you own. If you conceal anything, it will probably come out sooner or later and the penalties can be serious.
A divorce attorney can help you in determining a fair way to split your belongings. If you are considering divorce and want to learn more about how to value your assets or have any other questions pertaining to divorce, call the Oceanside divorce attorneys of Fischer & Van Thiel today at 760-722-7646.