How do you want to split this stuff?

Bank Accounts

For a property division to be enforceable, the Final Decree of Divorce must be fairly specific about the asset being divided.  But because the Final Decree is a public record document, listing bank accounts and their balances can pose certain privacy issues.   So, how do the parties address this concern?  The best way is, once a property division is agreed upon, the parties close all joint accounts and distribute the money into separate accounts in each person’s name.  Then, the decree can state general language that each party keeps whatever bank account is in that person’s name, rather than specifically identifying each account.  This solution can be applied to other assets as well, such as brokerage accounts.

Furniture and Household Items

Clients often ask me, “how do we split all the household items?”  Considering all the photographs, sports equipment, mugs, etc. that we spend our lives accumulating, listing everything can be a tedious and daunting task.  So, it may be useful to understand how a judge might approach such an issue if it came down to a trial.

Basically, a judge is not going to want to hear your list or decide how much a sofa or end table is worth.  A judge is going to order the parties to agree on a list of stuff in the house and then essentially flip a coin to decide who gets what.  And if you did have to figure out what an item is worth, he would tell you to assign it a “garage sale value” – NOT what you paid for it or what you think it should be worth.

It may be comforting to know, however, that as we move closer to finalizing the divorce, clients often realize that they have already divided the items and taken what they wanted.  But in the event that there are still some items that have not been exchanged, then it would be appropriate to make a list requesting those items.  A smaller, more specific list is much more manageable, and a judge is much more willing to resolve disputes over a few key items rather than a whole household of them.

Once all the items are distributed to the parties accordingly, all the decree has to state is that each party keeps whatever is in that party’s possession.   Alternatively or additionally, the parties can attach a list of specific items to the decree that they wish to acknowledge or have yet to be exchanged.