It doesn’t usually make a lot of sense to invest time, effort and attorney’s fees into quantifying your household goods in a divorce. In most cases, it’s far simpler and much cheaper to walk away from an item and purchase a replacement. Often, divorce courts will not allow you to litigate such mundane issues, and judges won’t take the time to order a division of household items. However, if you’re attempting to negotiate a marital settlement of this issue with your spouse, you'll need to know what each item is worth.
High-ticket items usually require appraisals. If you and your spouse purchased an antique grandfather clock during your marriage, it would be difficult to set an honest value for such an item without the input of a professional. Other such assets include artwork, memorabilia, china and glassware. If these items are of significant value, the court will probably separate them from the category of “household goods” and consider them as divisible assets, just like automobiles, real estate and retirement funds.
“As Is” Value
Your less expensive household goods should be valued “as is,” in their current condition. This includes your furniture, appliances and electronics. What you paid for them is irrelevant, because even a month or two after purchase, there is some amount of wear and tear. No one is likely to pay you your full purchase price for a television you’ve been watching for months when they could simply buy a brand new one for the same price instead. Therefore, the value of these items is generally what someone would be willing to pay you for them. The best way to value such household goods is to look up comparable items on websites such as eBay and Craigslist. Establish what they’re actually selling for, which is not necessarily the price the seller is asking.
Asking yourself what you'd be willing to pay for your household goods can be as useful as determining what a third party would pay, and it can save you the time and trouble of tracking down prices for each item. It also takes your emotions into account. That beat-up old recliner you lounge in every night is probably worth more to you than what anyone would pay you for it on eBay. You and your spouse can bid on each item. When one spouse bows out of the bidding because the price has become too dear, you’ve determined what the item is worth to the other.
Dividing the Property
After you’ve set values for your household goods, either through bidding, research or appraisals, each of you must decide what items you want to keep. This is obviously easiest with the bidding process, because the "winning" spouse has already established that she wants the particular items on her list. Tally up the values of each item you're retaining. If the property you’re keeping adds up to $10,000, and if the value of what your spouse is keeping totals $16,000, she would owe you $3,000, or half the $6,000 difference. You can achieve this with a cash payment, or by swapping items on your individual lists until the totals come out more evenly. She can also relinquish $3,000 of another asset in your favor, such as part of a savings or investment account.
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