4 tips for dividing up personal items in a divorce

Different states have different ways of dividing up the property owned by a married couple when they divorce.

In California, property is divided between "separate" property (belonging solely to an individual spouse) and "community" property (belonging to the couple jointly). Anything deemed community property has to be divided up equally.

That can be tough to do when you're trying to divide the vinyl record collection or an original painting you both want. Here are some guidelines to follow:

1. Make a list of what you consider to be your personal property and why you think that it qualifies. Was it a gift to you alone for your birthday by your mother? Did you have it before you married? Is it a family heirloom passed down from your father's side of the family?

2. Take steps to preserve any items you are worried might disappear from the family home before a settlement can be reached. A list, with photos, and a court order may be enough to dissuade most people from walking off with the crystal goblets from your wedding until there's been an official decision about who gets what -- but if you're really worried, you may have to ask the court to let you put things under lock and key in storage until the dispute is resolved.

3. Try to establish a value for items in dispute. If you can't estimate a value for the item or collection, have it appraised. That way you can determine what other items on the disputed list are of roughly equal value when you're negotiating.

4. Get ready to barter. You're probably going to have to give up something in order to get something -- it's rare that either party walks away totally satisfied. Be prepared, for example, to trade something of greater financial value for something that you value more emotionally.

Whether you're dividing up the family business or the family silver, you may find that your attorney's perspective and advice can help you get through the situation more easily. For information on how our firm will work to aggressively protect your property rights, please visit our web page.

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