What About The Furniture?

By: ​Gary L. Borger, Esquire

One of the areas of dispute in divorce has to do with the contents of the home.

How is the furniture, furnishings, tools, cookware, collections and collectibles, antiques, art work, etc., handled in divorce?

Most couples eventually work out an in-kind division, that is, they divide up the contents of the home item by item, coming to agreement on who keeps what. That is the most reasonable option for those spouses who are able to act rationally. However, there are those contentious cases where the couple fights about everything, and that includes the furniture. In those cases, there are a variety of options, none good.

First, they can engage a neutral third party to act as a referee as the spouses alternate selecting items or collections (depending on the rules that are set up) until all the items are divided between them (regardless of value).

Second, the couple can engage and retain a personal property appraiser who, for a fee, will inspect the contents of the home and then write up a report on the value of each item or collection of items. That is rarely done and has a monetary cost to it.

Third, (and this is the worst option), they can exchange sealed bids, each spouse writing a number on a piece of paper with that number representing what that spouse feels is the total value of all of the contents of the home. The higher bidder gets it all and pays 50% of that bid value to the other, either by check of by offset against other assets such as the bank account balance, the investment account (if there is one), the difference in the value of the motor vehicles, or even as a credit against a share of retirement accounts. (This is the option that a now-retired judge in our state used to use to punish people who couldn’t work out a division of their property without the judge being involved.)

The bottom line is that the best approach is the one taken by those couples who can act rationally despite their upset, resentment, anger, etc., resulting from how the marriage broke up, and can resolve this issue between themselves without a waste of money on legal fees to fight over the contents of the home.

As has often been said, it’s never the value of the vase, lamp, table, or whatever is holding up a settlement, that prevents the case from settling; it’s the underlying emotional issues that motivate one or both of the spouses to continue the battle regardless of the cost compared to the benefit to be obtained by continuing to fight.

Do yourself a favor and do not pay your attorneys to engage in a battle over your furniture and furnishings.

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