How are household goods divided in a divorce?


One of the least favorite aspects of divorce for judges is the division of household goods.  Amongst themselves, lawyers and judges refer to such division as the division “pots and pans”.   As distasteful as this may be to the court, it still has to be done. Typically the courts do not have any interest in personal property unless there is value such as in an antique, motor vehicle, boat or airplane.

It is very helpful to all concerned if each party would make the list of what he or she seeks to retain from the house. Sometimes, arrangements can be made for a viewing of what’s in the house, but often that is not possible. Once a spouse is out of the house typically the courts will not allow that spouse to reenter the purpose of making a list of what she or he seeks to remove from the house. It is all the more important for each party to make such a list for leaving the house even if that list includes items which ultimately the leaving party may abandon. At least with a comprehensive list, each party knows what is there.

Such a list should be made by room to room. For example, in the kitchen there are literally pots, pans, dishes and glasses. Sometimes there are two sets of each and sometimes there is one set of some of the items in two sets of other items. The more detailed the list is the better off the parties are. In this way no items are overlooked. On the other hand paper goods and inconsequential items like paper towels and foodstuff should not be divided, but left to whoever remains in the house. If someone has an extensive wine collection, then that should be divided. But in the ordinary household where some wine may be kept, then that ordinary wine should not be raised as an issue of this session, if only because the value of the wine is often less than the value of time to take to divide

Once each party has a list of the items in the house organized room by room, then each party should list out specifically what she or he wants so that the parties together and come up with a uniform list of at least some of the items and where those items will go. A disputed list can then be drafted and it is that disputed list that needs to be addressed. There are several options to deal with disputed personal property.

One way to deal with disputed personal property is to flip a coin to determine who will have the first choice of the first item, then each party should alternate selecting an item.

With regards to valuable properties such as an art collection, then typically the pieces of art are appraised so that the art is divided according to value as well as according to the desires of the parties.

Lastly, once everyone determines what will happen to the personal property, that list should be attached to the divorce agreement to avoid any disputes in the future.