Worried about Losing Half your Sh!t if you Split?

During most typical marriages, you buy things together. Some things big - the bedroom set, sofas, dining room table & major appliances; and some things small - the food processor, the wii, bath towels & clothes hampers. At some point, one household will become two. Who keeps what property in a divorce situation will usually be decided by the divorcing couple. Depending on who "moves out", some things will naturally not be moved, for example if you have a single family home with a patio set and are moving to an apartment; it makes sense to leave the patio set. Ditto for the pool table and portable jacuzzi. Then, there may be things that one or the other person doesn't want or has never used. But what about everything else? What if you both want the vacuum cleaner or the flat screen tv you bought 2 months ago? Before being too quick to fight over major purchases, ask yourself if the item is paid off and whether or not you are willing to make the final payments for it. If you are on a 12 month payment plan with Best Buy for the tv and have 10 months to go- guess what? Whoever takes the tv will most likely be taking on the entire bill with it.

Don't expect the judge to care much about personal property disputes in your Illinois divorce case. This is the one issue in your divorce that the judge will likely NOT want to hear about. First of all, at the end of the day - it is all stuff that can be replaced. More pressing on the court's mind are disputes over custody of children, domestic abuse, the house, and people's abilities to support themselves following a divorce. That is not to say that your stuff isn't important. What you don't keep you may have to spend money to replace, and money is not always easy to come by after a divorce. But asking a judge to decide who gets the Vita-Mix super power blender is a great way to get him or her hot under the collar. What about negotiating "stuff" and items of personal property through the attorneys?  It is no secret that lawyers are expensive and it will probably be cheaper at the end of the day to buy new things than to pay lawyer rates to go back and forth about the chairs.

If you feel that you and your spouse aren't able to have the conversation about who takes what, and that is okay- then in order to save money you can always make a list of what you want, to pass along to your spouse's lawyer. This will narrow down what items will be a problem. Those items can be set aside for later discussion and have a tendency to work themselves out throughout the course of the divorce.

Here are some ways that I have known couples to divide their stuff:

* Whatever each person brought into the marriage, they take from the marriage (this works better in short lived marriages)
* Colored Stickers. Each spouse has a certain color sticker - for example the husband green and the wife yellow. The husband puts green stickers on what he wants or what they have decided together will go with him, and the wife does the same with yellow stickers.
* One person just volunteers to buy new stuff and asks nothing in return.

Most of all, take it easy and don't let this stuff bog you down. Its not worth it. If an item is truly irreplaceable or has sentimental value, discuss it with your lawyer who can guide you in the best way to go about protecting it.  It may also be a worth taking a look into divorce mediation, if you and your spouse cannot agree on how to split the property, but you see how ineffective it would be financially to get the lawyers invovled. 


Carol O'Connor Cadiz
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Attorney & Owner at O'Connor Cadiz Law: Injury & Accidents, Disability Insurance.