How to Divide Personal Property Fairly During a Michigan Divorce

In one of my first divorce cases the parties were arguing over who was going to keep the $500.00 mattress. My client was going to pay me more to argue over the mattress than it was worth. I explained to him that it was better to give her the mattress than pay me my hourly rate to argue over a mattress.

It was not about who got to keep the mattress, it was that my client did not want to give his soon to be ex-wife anything that he had paid for. The fight over property is not usually about the object itself, but over control and revenge. The objects become symbols of winning and losing.

For most couples, splitting up your possessions is a big part of the process of getting divorced. Either you and your spouse sit down by yourselves and decide together who gets what property or you are going to have to pay someone a lot of money to divide the property. If you goto trial, the judge will make those decisions, you could agree to a binding arbitrator to make the decision or you can use your attorneys with the help of a mediator. Dividing the property yourselves is always the least costly.

The most important thing to do is to be open and honest in setting out everything of value you have come to own during your marriage. That includes revealing that you still have a little bank account you secreted away five years ago when the two of you were thinking about splitting up. Items such as these tend to surface sooner or later, and the penalties for hiding something of value can be serious.

Dividing Up Property Yourselves: If you and your spouse are going to try to divide your property yourselves, here are some steps to get you started.

List your belongings. Working together, make a list of all of the items that you own jointly. Of course, you can omit items both of you agree are personal things of insignificant value.

Value the property. Try to agree on the value of anything worth more than a specific agreed amount, say $100 or $300. For antiques, you can hire a professional appraiser.

Decide on the logical owner. Now go through your main list, item by item, and decide whether there is some good reason to have each piece of property go to one or the other of you. Start with the biggest value items and see how far you can get. If having an equal split is important to you, keep track of the total value each person accumulates. Later, trade off on the smaller items, with each of you taking one in turn.

Additional Techniques: If it becomes difficult to proceed as suggested above, it may be helpful to try a few additional methods.

Coin flip I: Flip a coin and have the winner divide up all the items into two lists.

Coin flip II: Flip a coin and have the winner place a monetary value on each item on a list of items to be divided. The other person then chooses the items he or she wants, up to one-half of the total value of all the items on the list. The person who won the flip is awarded what remains.

Coin flip III: Alternate draft choice. Start with a coin flip. The winner gets the first pick and then alternate thereafter.

Have a garage sale or an auction: Hold a garage sale or auction and divide the proceeds equally. Neither party gets mad that the other party got a piece of property that they really wanted.

Filing for divorce in Michigan? Call our Metro Detroit family law office today for a free consultation. We're here to help!