When determining an appropriate property settlement, an initial step is to ascertain what the property pool is to be divided – that is, what is the pie to be carved up. The assets and liabilities need to be identified and their value clarified.
With high value items such real estate, cars and businesses, if parties cannot agree on their value then independent valuations can be obtained.
When it comes to household contents and personal items, even though they can be independently valued to determine their worth – parties have to ask themselves – is it worth it? A more practical and common sense approach is required.
For family law purposes, the market value of household contents and personal items is their current resale value – often referred to as “garage sale value” — that is, not the original cost, replacement value, sentimental value or insured value.
The average garage sale (or these days ebay) value of household contents including furniture, appliances and personal items (excluding antiques, artwork and jewellery) is generally much less than what you paid for it. That leather couch you saved up for, it will probably now only be worth a couple of hundred dollars. For this reason, parties are encouraged to agree between themselves as to the value and division of such items – a common approach is for one party to write up two lists of proposed divided items and for the other party to choose the list of items they wish to retain — you cut the cake and I’ll choose which piece.
Of course the Court can eventually decide who gets what but they generally will not spend a lot of time on the issue and can even just order that all the items be sold and the proceeds be divided – which can be devastating due to sentimental value and replacement costs of some items.
Taking into account the possible legal costs required to negotiate about these matters and the costs of valuations – as well as asking what’s it worth, parties should also ask — is it worth it?