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Considerations for Dividing Personal Property in Divorce

Divorce pushes most spouses to their limits, and can produce extreme behavior as each person tries to cope with all the changes. The division of property is one area that is particularly prone to disagreement, and whether it involves big-ticket items like the family home or small things, such as the tablecloth from Grandma, spouses can be quite territorial over certain property. This matter is further complicated by the fact that all property in Indiana is presumed to be part of the marital pot, and only in certain circumstances will a court classify it as separate and excluded from division.

In practical terms, this means spouses must figure out what they consider a fair share of the marital pot, and identify the assets that mean the most to them for purposes of negotiation. Personal property is especially hard to categorize and divide because of the emotional attachment. This can create conflict if a reasoned approach is not used to address the matter, and force couples to cede the decision to the judge, which is unlikely to produce a desired division, as well as increase the odds there will be complications trying to retrieve personal property once a settlement is made. However, implementing some tools and safeguards can help reduce the tension surrounding this difficult aspect of divorce, and several of these considerations will be explored below.

Considerations for Division

Personal property covers a wide range of items, from cars to collectibles to kitchenware. Consequently, how couples approach the division of these diverse belongings will likely vary. However, the first step should be to create a list of personal property, including a complete inventory of all personal property, and the particular items a spouse wants. Compiling this list will facilitate negotiation, and ensure that each spouse is on the same page in terms of the personal property that will be divided.

Turning to specific types of personal property, outside of real estate and financial accounts, family vehicles are high on the list of important assets. Cars are essential sources of transportation throughout the country, but one factor that divorcing spouses must keep in mind is whether they can afford to keep a particular vehicle, especially if the car payments or maintenance costs are high. Further, since it is unlikely the value of each vehicle is identical, spouses will need to negotiate which additional assets the spouse keeping the less valuable car will receive to keep the division fair.

Collectibles are another type of personal property that can create disagreement, often over whether they should be kept together or broken apart according to the estimated value. Using a professional appraiser and perhaps a neutral third party to facilitate an agreement may be particularly useful for this type of property. Finally, household wares and furniture can provoke the most intense arguments and may need the structure and oversight of mediation to successfully divide.

Issues with Retrieving Personal Property

Once an agreement is made about how to divide personal property, a common concern is the ability of the spouse who left the family residence to retrieve his or her share. The easiest solution, and assuming the agreement is voluntary and the court has not restricted access, is that the spouse may simply retrieve personal affects directly from the marital residence. Note, though, that until a final court judgment is issued, only low-value property should be exchanged, i.e., worth less than $500. Alternatively, a third party could retrieve the property, if the other spouse is uncomfortable letting his or her former partner into the residence. However, if cooperation is not happening, the court can order how the property may be retrieved, or a court-ordered settlement may be enforced by law enforcement.

Get Help

Property division is one of the most pivotal issues in divorce and is rarely open to revisiting on appeal. Thus, the settlement must be right on the first try. Christopher L. Arrington, P.C. has years of experience helping clients secure fair property settlements, and can guide you through the negotiation and settlement process. Contact the Danville law firm to schedule an appointment.

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