by Dana McKee and Anthony May
From the curtain rods to the broken microwave in the basement, and yes, even the kitchen sink, divorcing couples often engage in the “one for me, one for you” game when dividing marital property. Parties often fall into the trap of trying to evenly quantify and distribute every piece of martial property or household item, nickel, and dime. The truth is, in this scenario, nobody wins. Below are the top three questions to ask yourself when trying to achieve a quick and efficient distribution of marital assets where everyone can walk away from the table satisfied.
- What is the value of the fork? – Just because you purchased the comforter set in the master bedroom of your marital home, does not mean you should waste your time and energy fighting over it, especially if you already have a set for your new home! Associating a personal attachment to an object in the home is quite reasonable when it is a family heirloom or has some significant meaning. But arguing over items when there is no sentimental value and can easily be replaced is a waste of time, energy, and money that can be allocated for more important things.
- Do you have the troops for a storage war? – How often do you use that espresso maker? Will that old mirror collect dust in the attic? By waging battle for a minor victory, you can end up with more than you bargained for. List the important assets you value and come up with reasons why each of those items is important to you. If you cannot think of a meaningful reason to keep an item, then don’t fight about it if your spouse wants it. Trade the item for something that is more important to you.
- Is the “Big Picture” worth fighting for? – YES! Litigants often spend more money fighting over assets that are not unique or valuable, rather than working towards a general compromise. Instead of shooting for a two-person 50/50 goal, look at what will make you 100% happy. If you walk away from the table with the assets that are most important to you, does it matter whether your spouse got something worth a few dollars more in the trade, but you saved hundreds of dollars in attorney’s fees in not fighting over it? Keeping an open mind when walking into negotiations over dividing property acquired during the course of the marriage can often work to your benefit and result in both parties achieving the best outcome possible for their situation.
Dana McKee has over 25 years experience in all aspects of family law.