970 663-0898 ⇽ Mobile Users Click to Call

I receive a number of telephones calls each month from individuals who are either moving out of a marital home or his or her spouse is moving out and want to know what household items can be removed. The short answer is there is no law governing this issue. Then, there is the longer answer.

I feel it is really never appropriate to drive up a U-Haul to the home and remove all household items from the home unless there is an agreement to allow this to happen in writing by the parties. Although this is rare, it happens. It sets the stage for a litigious divorce in most cases. It causes many negative emotions in the spouse who walks in the door after work and finds the home cleared out. You need to look at this from both points of view before taking such drastic measures. I find that it is almost always better to start off the divorce trying to be amicable than litigious. There are exceptions to this, such as when domestic violence is in involved, but in most of normal divorces, the cost of taking these dramatic measures are not worth it in the long run.

In most cases, the parties are able to reach an agreement on personal property division fairly early on after separation. It may be before the divorce is filed, after the filing when someone relocates from the home or even when the parties are discussing full settlement. Some parties go room to room, make verbal agreements on which party receives an item, and then the parties follow the agreement and honor their word. They are thoughtful of what items are important to each spouse and value of the items. They work together to make a fair division. Other parties will create a list of all assets in each room of the home and assign values to the items and then make an equitable division at some time later in the divorce. The usual value is garage sale type value, not replacement.  The parties strive to give each other a fair share of the household goods.

It is not cost effective to hire a personal property appraisal to value old furnishings, such as a five-year-old couch. In the one case that I remember the parties doing so, they were sadly shocked at how little the household goods were worth. If you have expensive artwork, sculptures or gun collections, this may be necessary, only as to these particular items. I have used had parties use property collection books to value collectibles. I recommend parties itemize and photograph high dollar items for valuation at later dates as these items are easily disposed of and then valuation is difficult.

If the parties are unable to reach agreements on value or the division of the items, the court will. The court may order everything sold or may order the parties flip a coin and then take turns selecting items. One magistrate routinely told a story about a couple arguing over heirloom flatware. He advised he had the authority to assign the forks to one party and spoons to the other. He did not have to award the entire set to just one party. The point of this story is, it is better for the parties to reach their own agreements on household goods and other personal property items as this issue is expensive to litigate and the results can be uncertain.