I remember the first time I purchased a new couch. It cost me around $800 (which at the time was all the money in the world – I was studying for the bar) and was the first “new” and “adult” purchase my Wife and I made. I also remember when I got a new and better couch several years later. When considering my options for dealing with my now “old” couch, my thought was to simply throw it away. My Wife suggested we sell it on craigslist. I suggested we list it for free so long as the new owner came to pick it up. My Wife thought better and decided to sell it for actual money. My Wife listed the couch for $300. We eventually got about $75 for the couch and my Wife was quite proud of herself (if not disappointed in the price); I was just glad to be rid of the couch.
It’s funny to me how a couch that I loved and paid “all the money in the world” for many years before had become surplus that I was happy to give away. What was not surprising to me was the price someone was prepared to pay for it, nor was it surprising that my Wife had over-valued the used couch.
And that folks is the important word…”USED.”
I typically tell clients that it is not worth their time or money to fight over used furniture during their divorce. It does not matter if you bought it from Ethan Allen or from Joe’s Discount Furniture (“Now with Less Fleas.”) it is still used furniture and you can expect to receive garage sale prices for it.
The disconnect comes from the extrinsic value versus the intrinsic value of the items. The couch in your home is more than a piece of furniture. It is where you sat when you first brought your children home from the hospital, it is where you spent nights watching your favorite shows with your partner or kids, and for many of us it was a first big purchase. But all the reasons that you love the couch are the reasons it is worth so little. While it may be the first place you sat with your baby, it was also probably the first place your baby threw up all over you. And all those nights spent watching television; well you had better clean up all the cheerios and fruit snacks stuck to the bottom of the cushions before you try to sell it. You see, court’s cannot place a value on memories, they can only value an item for its worth.
The hardest part to explain to my clients is how this all seems unfair. They are right, it is not exactly fair. One party ends up with most of the furniture and the other gets 10 cents on the dollar. What I try to remind my clients is that instead of dwelling on the lost furniture, walk away from the used furniture and use the money you would have spent litigating over used furniture, and go out and buy new items to create new memories with. And think…this stuff won’t require a good scrubbing before you can allow guests to sit on it.
There are of course exceptions for antiques or other very unique or valuable furniture. I will take these issues up in my next blog along with some options for dividing furniture that does not costs a great deal of money.
Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding property division. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.