Anyone who has been married for any length of time understands how material items can accumulate, as well as the emotions which can be attached to some of these items. During a divorce, hard feelings between spouses can become more severe when it is time to divide the household goods. Stories abound of couples who battled for years over such things as a ceramic garden owl, a CD collection, the punch bowl received as a wedding gift or the Lazy-Boy recliner in the living room.
As silly as it may sound, when couples are in the throes of a contentious divorce, giving up one more thing—no matter the actual financial value—can cause one or both spouses to dig in their heels and push back. If you find yourself in this unenviable position during your divorce, an attorney from The Law Place may be able to help negotiate the division of household goods. Our attorneys have many years’ experience helping divorcing couples successfully divide assets and move on with their lives, and we can do the same for you.
Could Mediation Work for You?
In cases where there is a stalemate and nothing is likely to change, your attorney may recommend that you try mediation in order to potentially avoid additional legal fees as well as extra months or years of hard feelings due to arguments over the household items. A mediator is impartial and may have a fresh perspective on the issue that can help “nudge” couple in the right direction. A mediator cannot force you into doing anything or budging your position over the items you and your spouse are arguing about.
What a mediator can do, is perhaps bring the voice of reason into the mix, allowing the disagreements about these material possessions to end and the divorce to move forward. As an alternative to a mediator, perhaps as a couple you have a neutral friend who can gently offer help in dividing your household items. Your family law attorney is the best person to offer you advice to end the impasse, so take full advantage of this very important resource. Remember that judges tend to get extremely cranky when they are forced to decide who gets the dinnerware and sofa.
Negotiating the Split of Household Items
If you truly desire to end the deadlock you and your spouse seem to find yourselves in, as well as bringing closure to your divorce and the accompanying hard feelings, you might want to give the following a try: Make a list of all household items in your home which do not obviously belong to one party or another (in other words, exclude personal items such as clothing, shoes, etc.). Your list will, of course, be different than any other couple’s list, but it is likely to include such things as household furniture, appliances, dishes, cookware, tools, items from your garage and patio, photo albums, shared books and CD’s and electronics. You may even want to include such things as Christmas decorations, towels, sheets and quilts on your list, as well as anything else which is causing contention between you and your spouse.
Once your list is made, you and your spouse will look it over to ensure there are no items which were inadvertently omitted, and no items which you both agree were a gift to one of you, belonged to one of you prior to the marriage, or has great sentimental value to one of you, but not particularly to the other. Do your best to remain calm during the making of your list; arguments at this point can stall out the entire process. Once you have a mutually acceptable list of items, you can choose from the following methods:
• Flip a coin to decide who goes first, then alternate choosing items from the list, making notes as you go.
• Submit a “bid” for each item, with the highest bidder “winning” the item. You will then make a tally of the value of each spouse’s items, and one spouse will be required to make an “equalization” payment to the other. When you are forced to put a monetary value on items, you may find you don’t want them nearly as much.
• You can also make two lists, ensuring a roughly equal value of each. Flip a coin, and the winner of the coin toss gets to choose which list they prefer.
Do your best to avoid breaking up sets; if one person gets the couch, they should probably also get the matching chair. In the same vein, splitting up a matching set of dishes or silverware is probably not the best idea. If you simply cannot agree on an equitable division using the list method, you might consider having an estate sale, selling everything and splitting the proceeds. Unless you have plenty of money to replace all necessary items, this could end up costing you both more than you can afford to lose. The attorneys at The Law Place have a broad knowledge of Florida divorce laws as well as an understanding of the difficulties you may be facing during your divorce. We offer compassion and experience and will work hard for your future.