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4 Tips for Exchanging Personal Property During a Divorce

Divorce word and a ring
When you get a divorce, one of the most stressful parts is dividing your property. Specifically, dividing personal possessions can be a source of contention, particularly when you retained those items during your marriage. When you disagree over who should receive which items, whether they have significant monetary value or not, it can cause issues in a divorce.

Fortunately, you can avoid some of these issues with careful planning and foresight. Take a look at some suggestions to help you when dividing personal property during your divorce.

1. Create a List of Property

To ensure your property is correctly addressed in the divorce and not divided hastily, take the time to prepare a comprehensive list of every item you would like returned to your possession. In your list, include a fair estimate of each item's value. Provide a copy of the list to your spouse and his or her attorney before going to court or through mediation.

2. Try to Divide the Items Yourselves

Once you deliver the list and your spouse agrees you should receive the items listed, you can both voluntarily exchange the property among yourselves. You can do this as long as you both remain amicable and no court orders require you to not be within a certain mile radius of one another.

In this scenario, you should keep the division to items of fairly low value. Items such as clothing, toiletries, photographs, and the like are better for dividing yourselves. If the property you want is of higher value, you should leave the division of those assets to the court system. Attempting to divide high-value items could lead to further dispute.

3. Consider a Neutral Third Party

Even if you have an amicable relationship, you may feel more comfortable having a neutral third party present when exchanging personal property, particularly when you have to go to the home of your former spouse. You either need a neutral third party to escort you as you go collect your personal property or someone who has permission to collect the items for you.

4. Follow a Court Order or Settlement Agreement

If you both cannot agree to the division of lower-value personal property, you need either a mediator or a court order to help you divide the property. You can accomplish the division in one of two ways. One way is through a settlement agreement, which will list the property each of you may take and the method you will use to collect the property.

If you do not have a settlement for the division of property, you can seek a court order for the return of certain property. Similar to a settlement agreement, a court order specifies when you can collect the property and which items you are to collect. The difference is if you fail to follow the court order, you can face contempt of court charges from the court.

One thing to remember is how to care for personal property that is in your possession but does not belong to you. Until the property is exchanged, you have an obligation to preserve the property for your spouse. You may not throw anything away or sell it even when it is still in your passion. If you are not sure, simply keep it and wait until the property is dealt with in your settlement.

Dividing property is one of the more arduous tasks within a divorce. If you need assistance with this aspect of your divorce or need assistance with other family law matters, please contact us at Hoffman & Hoffman. We look forward to working with you.