How to split up minor assets during a divorce

Anyone who has ever told you that material things don’t matter hasn’t gone through a divorce. We spend 5, 10, 20 years collecting items and building a home with one person and suddenly find all of it disappearing. Yes, our household goods dull in comparison to the things we truly value in life like our children, family, and relationships, but collectively they shape our lifestyles so much that it can seem impossible to live without them.

In some situations, splitting minor assets is hardly an issue. However there are times where spouses may place emotional connections or sentimental values to household items or other minor assets making it even more difficult to split such assets without contest.

If you’re contemplating who gets minor assets in the home like toasters, blenders, TVs, artworks, and books during divorce and how to share these assets with your spouse, this article will outline how to separate everything with as minimal stress as possible and with little or no assistance.

What the law says

Although there is no law that explicitly states how minor assets should be divided, North Carolina law and many other states’ support a 50/50 (equitable) distribution of marital assets during divorce. By that definition it means that each spouse should receive the same cash value for all of the items they receive whether they take all of the items as is or liquify some or all into cash. This law however may not apply if there is another agreement such as a prenup that’s been entered into.

Establish which assets are eligible

The first step to take is to ascertain which household assets can be classified as marital assets. Any items accumulated during the marriage or received as a wedding gift should naturally fall under this category.

However, if the asset was acquired before the marriage or during the marriage through proceeds from sources like inheritance, such assets will be categorized as separate and will naturally belong to the person who bought them. There are however exceptions and each case will most likely be assessed on an individual basis.

Although these scenarios are not very common with household assets like toasters and perhaps TVs, this clarification is important as items like artwork and books may have been acquired through inheritance.

Make a list

Once you’ve determined which minor assets are eligible to be split up between you and your spouse, the next step would be to write up an itemized list of every one of such items. Both parties can decide to do this or agree for one spouse to draw up the list.

As you go through the list, try to categorize things to make the process easier. Things you have multiple of like televisions or cookware can be more easily allocated this way. You may choose to do this by item type, which room the item belongs in, or what the item is used for (cooking, decorative, entertainment, etc).

Make your choices

Here lies perhaps the most challenging part. You and your spouse will need to decide who gets what from the prepared list fairly. The challenge here usually lies around monetary or emotional sentiments. If this arises, you’ll need to separate the assets you disagree over from the ones you have no problem splitting.

A great way to make your choice would be for each spouse to make their own lists of household items that they’d like to take in their order of importance. This should ideally help both parties understand what the other party considers most important and also see where compromises can be made. Although this may not eliminate disagreements or disputes completely, it should help reduce them to a minimum.

Handling disputes when splitting up minor assets during divorce

When handled badly, disputes over who gets minor assets can go on for a long time. When a dispute arises, both parties should exhaust all options open to them to personally resolve it before attempting to seek help externally. In most cases, it’s usually the items wanted by both parties that lead to disputes so it’s best to trim down the list of assets to only such items before moving forward. Items like family photographs should ideally be split without disputes. Duplicates can also be made where possible with the costs incurred by one or both spouses.

The following steps should help spouses resolve disputes when splitting up minor assets in divorce.

  •      Get an Appraiser: Sometimes, this action takes precedence to making a list of the minor assets you jointly own. The purpose of getting an appraiser is to determine the monetary value of each item and aid in the decision to split them. An appraiser can also help to neutrally split assets into two equal halves making it easier for each spouse to come to an agreement.
  •      Give assets to children: In a joint custody situation where a child is likely to spend time with both parents, it would be ideal to perhaps split their toys across both parent’s residences or leave them at the location they’ll be spending the most time. Keep in mind though that these items, if portable, should be freely available to move back and forth between households as the child pleases. This will help make adjusting easier for your children.
  •      Donate unwanted assets to charity: If both spouses are in agreement that they do not need certain assets, one or both should make out time to donate these minor assets to charity. In some cases, you may also consider giving away items that you and your spouse can’t reach an agreement about. The thought of the item being in the hands of someone who desperately needs it rather than the hands of your spouse may be enough for you to remove your attachment from it.

Closing Thoughts

Household items hold so many memories and it’s no wonder why splitting them or knowing you’d have to give up your favorite one could easily become contentious. The tips and guidelines detailed above are aimed at helping you know what to expect and also how you can reduce the stress involved in splitting minor assets in divorce. Understanding the need to compromise as well as what you truly value most should also speed up the process and get you to stability much faster.