How Are Household Items Divided in a Divorce?

Property division is often one of the most highly contested aspects of a divorce, especially in cases involving complex or valuable assets. Most points of contention are major assets such as houses, vehicles, businesses and expensive jewelry. Many couples also wonder, however, about the division of smaller household items. From major appliances to favorite pots and pans, who gets what in your divorce case will depend on several different factors.

Do You Have a Contested or Uncontested Divorce?

In California, as in most states, the courts allow you to work out issues such as property division with your spouse before a judge will intervene. If you and your spouse can compromise on the terms of the divorce, it will be uncontested and can proceed without a trial. If, however, you cannot agree on how to divide your assets or handle matters such as child custody, your case will go to court.

If a judge has to preside over your case, you will lose the right to say who gets which household items. The judge will use the state’s divorce and property division laws to decide matters, rather than personal preference or fault. You may or may not have a say in which household items you receive if you have a contested divorce case that goes to trial.

Can You Compromise on the Division of Household Items?

Do your best to compromise with your spouse when it comes to property division. Working together could work out best for both of you. Get help from an attorney to divide household goods, if necessary. You can use attorneys during asset evaluations and mediation to decrease the chances of needing to take your case to court.

  1. List your assets. Make a comprehensive list of everything in your home. This may be a long and involved process. Go through your home room by room to make sure you do not miss anything of value.
  2. Differentiate marital from separate property. Items you brought into the marriage will be your separate property and yours to keep. Separate property will not be part of a household goods negotiation in a divorce case.
  3. Get assets evaluated. Appraise the items on your list. The value each piece of property has will be its current fair market price. This is not the price you bought the item for, but what it is worth today.
  4. Add debts. During your property division arrangements, do not forget debts. Add up all the debts you and your spouse accrued during the marriage. Weigh these into your property division decisions.
  5. Work out an agreement. Use your lists of household items, assets and debts to decide who gets what. If you have specific household goods you want, leverage something you know your spouse wants or offer to take certain debts in exchange for the item.

If you have household items you are passionate about keeping, it will be in your best interest to settle your case out of court. That way, you will have the final say in which household items you keep and which go to your spouse. If your case goes to court, there is no guarantee you will get to keep the appliances, furniture, electronics, tools or other household goods you want. Try your best to compromise with your spouse about which items you will both take during settlement negotiations.

What Will a Judge Say?

California is a community property state. If you and your spouse cannot divide household goods alone, a judge will split everything 50/50. A judge generally will not go through a home and assign each household good to one party or the other. Instead, he or she will generalize assets and debts and assign each party half. A judge will have the final say in property division outside of the settlement process.