Cincinnati Family Law & Divorce Blog: How are Household Goods Divided?
When a couple divorces, along with the division of all of their larger assets, such as the home, bank accounts, and retirement assets, they also have to divide their household goods and personal property. People are often unsure how the court will divide this property, especially when many of the items may appear to have little value, but in fact have great personal value to one or both of the parties. First, each party would be entitled to retain any personal property which would be considered separate or non-marital property, such as property that was acquired prior to the marriage, purchased with funds acquired by gift or received as inheritance or a gift. All remaining personal property that is marital, would then be divided. In the eyes of the court, all personal items and household goods are valued based on what another person would pay for the the item, often referred to as the “Craig’s list value.”
For the majority of personal property, the court typically does not review the proposed value of each item and divide the property to provide an equal allocation of that value. Rather, the court will have the parties create a master list of items and require the parties to take turns choosing a piece of property from that list, with the parties flipping a coin to determine who chooses first. Because this method can seem harsh, parties are encouraged to reach an agreement on their own regarding the division of personal property. Further, the parties’ attorneys often suggest that the parties begin the division by themselves and only bring the remaining items that they cannot agree upon to the attention of their attorneys. This allows the parties to avoid incurring large amounts of attorney fees arguing over which party retains which couch. With certain items of significant value such as a piece of art or jewelry that was purchased as investment, the Court will make a determination of that value and award that particular property outside of such a list.
Another very important piece of personal property is the family pet. The court will award the family pet to one party or another. However, under the law, the family pet is a piece of property and is treated as such. Therefore, while the court will take evidence regarding the care of the pet and make a decision regarding who will retain the pet, the court will not make orders regarding visitation or “shared custody” of the pet. If the parties are able to reach agreements without the court’s intervention, they can include terms including a visitation schedule and division of veterinarian expenses. Due to the fact that pets are viewed as property, while the court will have the authority to enforce these agreements, it will not have the ability to modify such agreements. Therefore, if the parties negotiate such agreements, they have to be sure that the arrangements will be acceptable for the foreseeable future.