Household and Personal Items in Family Law Disputes

The best advice we can give about these items is to keep in mind a cost versus benefit consideration. It is easy to become embroiled in the emotion, but the reality is that you may end up paying a lot more in legal fees than what the assets are worth if there is a substantial dispute about them.

Furniture and whitegoods are ridiculously expensive to buy new, but it is only their second hand value that is relevant if there is a dispute about them. For a guide on what second hand values of such items are, you can go to some garage sales or look on Ebay. You may be surprised at just how little the second hand value is. For this reason, the best advice is to try to deal with the furniture and whitegoods on a practical basis.

To put it simply, the children’s items should go with the children. For the rest of the items try dividing them as agreed. If you cannot agree then maybe you could try a “pick-a-list” system. This is a similar theory to having one child cut a slice of cake in half and having the other child choose which “half” they want. For this system one party writes 2 lists, and each item is entered onto one of the lists. The other party then chooses which list of items they keep.

Photos and other sentimental items can be more difficult as they may not have any monetary value but are worth a lot to you. The old cliche that “possession is 9 tenth’s of the law” can ring quite true in relation to these items. It may be virtually impossible to retrieve such items if your ex takes them and destroys them or says that s/he no longer has them. Until there are orders or a Financial Agreement in place, there is no real right or wrong as to who should have these items. On a practical basis, if you trust yourself to look after these items and be fair with the distribution of them, then take them, but be honest about it. For example, photos can be copied so that you both receive copies of the same set of photos (and it is of course much easier with digital photos), and memorabilia items can be shared.

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