“I Want the T.V.” — Dividing Household Items and Personal Belongings after a Separation

 In Family Law

Separating from your partner or spouse is hard. There are a number of issues that have to be worked through and one area that can be incredibly difficult is dividing household items and personal belongings after a separation.

Stuff is Piling Up — Literally

Perhaps not surprisingly, divvying things up can take time. It can come down to what you understand is yours, emotional attachment to items, the principle of it all, or, for some, a way to get back at your soon-to-be ex.

Some people take items with them as soon as they leave home. Others will leave things in the house looking to retrieve them at a later date. Both can lead to a debate about who should really keep that item, and what should be returned.

There can be a lot of back and forth about who gets what. Spreadsheets, lists, emails — all of these can be used to cover everything from washers and dryers, beds and mattresses, books, pots and pans, a recycling bin, shovels, and stuff  in the garage. The list can (and does) go on. Because there can be a lot of questions on how to do this, it’s good to have some guidance on how best to proceed.

Tips for Dividing All of Your Stuff

  • Pre-Relationship/Marriage Items – suggest that things each of you had before the relationship will not be divided.
  • Gifts – if the item was gifted, the person who got it should keep it.
  • Create a List –  each partner makes a list of items they think should be divided. Mark off what items you would like to keep.
  • Disputed Items –  if both of you want the same item(s), come up with a way to decide who gets what. This could include:
    • Master List — list all disputed items, flip a coin, and then alternate on an “I pick, you pick” basis;
    • Blind Draw — put the items into a hat and pull on an alternating basis;
    • Closed Bid — each partner writes down how much they are willing to pay for the item. The person with the higher bid gets it and pays the amount to the other partner;
    • Auction — Use a master list and individually assign dollar values next to each item. The higher bid gets the item at the value. Tally up each person’s values and the person getting the higher dollar value pays the other the difference to balance things out;
    • Neutral Third Party —You can use a mutually agreeable third party to help divide things.
  • Unwanted Items – decide if the things neither of you wants will be:
    • Sold and profits split;
    • Donated;
    • Thrown away.

Things to Remember

  • Household items depreciate significantly in value so think about what these items would be listed at on Kijiji, or other resale sites.
  • Value is not what it would cost to replace it, but rather what you could sell it at in its current condition.
  • Think about the storage costs — where are you going to keep the items while you are negotiating and, if they’re held at a storage facility, how this cost will be paid.
  • Purchase new — if there is back and forth, ask yourself if it is worth the fight or if you could go and buy yourself the same item, new, for a minimal cost.

This blog post was written by Olivia Koneval, a member of the Family Law team.  She can be reached at 613-369-0367 or at olivia.koneval@mannlawyers.com.

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