In a divorce, personal property (such as furniture, furnishings, art, family photos, pets, and other general property) is treated no differently than the division of other assets. Parties to a divorce can spend a significant amount of money fighting over silverware and lamps by placing a dollar figure on each item and dealing with them as part of the general division of assets and debts. If there is a dispute over which furniture or furnishing each party wants, the personal property will usually be appraised and then the appraiser will make a list of all of the personal property and assign dollar values to everything. As divorce attorneys will advise their clients, at that point the judge will make a determination as to how everything will be divided.
Or, instead of litigating the division of personal property, a better (i.e. less expensive) way to deal with the division might just be for the parties to agree on who takes what piece of furniture/dishes/artwork, etc. There are several ways that divorce attorneys approach an equitable division of furniture and furnishings, including, but not limited to the following methods:
- Alternate Pick Method - personal property is divided by alternating picks after the flip of a coin to determine which party to the divorce will pick first.
- Alternate Pick Method by Room - together the parties itemize everything in each room and then the parties alternate picks for the contents of the entire room.
- Sale and Split - sell everything and split the proceeds between the parties upon divorce.
- List and Choose - One person prepares two lists placing everything to be split in the divorce on one list or the other; then the other person picks which list he or she wants.
- Bidding - each person submits a sealed bid as to what they think the item is worth and then the person with the higher bid gets the item at that value (i.e. at a charge).
- Appraisal - Hire an appraiser and then divide everything based on the appraiser's values. This usually requires the use of one of the above ways to divide the property once it is valued.
Although there are a variety of methods of dividing household items in a divorce, family photos generally fall under their own category of division. Typically, the parties agree for family photos to be given to one party and the other party to have the option to make copies of all of the photos. Courts usually do not like to get into disputes over family photos since there is really no way to assign a financial value to original photos.