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How to Split Up Household Items in a Divorce

When a couple gets a divorce, the question of who gets what is one that quickly comes into play. While separating the household items may seem small in the grand scheme of things, it’s a common source of tension during a divorce.  Over the course of a marriage, a couple accumulates a variety of things. From precious heirlooms to the dining room table, there’s a lot to sort through. 

Louisiana is one of just a small handful of states that follows community property laws. What this means is each partner has the right to 50% of the joint assets, including household items. But anyone who has been married knows, you can’t just put everything in two boxes and be done. Besides sentimental value, there may be several items with a high monetary value as well. 

If you are going through a divorce, it’s important for you and your partner to develop a strategy to help you tackle this step in a fair and reasonable manner. Here are a few tips to help you through the process. 

1. Separate personal items

When you’re dividing property, there are some items that will naturally stay with one partner or the other. This commonly includes items such as clothing and toiletries. However, there are other items that the law considers personal and are not subject to community property laws. This includes:

  • Items acquired before marriage
  • Individual gifts
  • Family heirlooms
  • An Inheritance left solely to one partner

Separate these items right away. This will allow you to focus on the things that there could be mutual interest in.

2. Appraise high-value items

Once you separate personal items, the next step is to determine the monetary value of all household items. Because the law requires a 50-50 division, this will help each partner feel they are getting their fair share. If you own any antiques, it’s a good idea to get these items appraised. For large items like TVs, entertainment systems, or furniture, you can get a good idea of an item’s value from resale sites like Craigslist, eBay, or OfferUp. 

3. Make a list of what you want

There’s no point in fighting over your wedding china if only one of you wants it. Each partner needs to walk around the house and make a list of must-have items. After you both have done this, compare notes. Chances are, there are items that you want that your ex doesn’t mind giving up and vice versa. While it may be tempting to keep adding to your list, try to stay reasonable and compromise when you can. 

4. Divide up the rest

It’s up to you and your ex how to split up the rest of your property, as long as you do it in an equal manner. Refer to the list you made in step two and make sure for each big item, the other person receives something of equivalent value. If neither one of you wants it, sell it and split the proceeds. If you do decide to sell anything, make sure you keep records of the sale to show to the court if necessary. 

As far as furniture goes, if either one of you is staying in the home, it usually makes sense for the furniture to stay in the home. Just make sure the person leaving takes home items of an equivalent value or cash.

A few tips to make the process easier

Divorce isn’t easy on anyone. The more you can do to make this a stress-free transaction, the better. This includes:

Keep your emotions in check

Every divorce is different. But it is not unusual for emotions to run high. When it comes time to separate household items, try to keep your emotions out of it. This doesn’t mean you can’t fight for sentimental items or things that mean a lot to you. What this does mean is you shouldn’t fight for something simply out of spite. The more you fight the longer the process will take. And ultimately, if you can’t come to an agreement, the court may decide for you.

Don’t forget the storage units

It’s important to make a comprehensive list of all the items you and your ex share. For some couples, this may include items outside the marital home. During a complicated divorce, it’s easy to forget some of these items. Additional locations may include:

  • Storage units
  • Vacation homes
  • Safety deposit boxes

Be sure to go to each of these locations and include them in your lists so they don’t become a point of contention later down the road. 

Don’t fight over the kids’ stuff

Divorce can be hard on children. Don’t bring their possessions into your fight. If one parent has primary custody, it typically makes sense for the bigger items such as furniture to stay with that parent. For the smaller items, be flexible. If you let your child take important items back and forth, they’re less likely to feel caught up in the divorce.  Above all, don’t ask your children to decide, this only puts them in the middle of an already difficult situation. 

What if you can’t agree

If you can’t come to an agreement with your ex, an experienced attorney can help you work with the other party to find a compromise. In some cases, your attorney may suggest mediation to reach an agreement. If you still can’t agree, the court has the authority to split the items how they have fit or order the parties to sell the items and split the proceeds. In this case, both parties are unlikely to get what they want. Try to compromise whenever you can. 

During a divorce, it’s important to have someone by your side you can trust. If you are going through a divorce, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Contact Betsy A. Fischer, LLC at 504-780-8232 or fill out an online request to schedule your initial consultation. 

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