Personal property can sometimes be the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s hard to part with your personal property, your belongings, your “things.” The “things” that aren’t necessities, but are close to your heart and make you feel like who you are. I’ve personally got my things that I couldn’t part with if I had to make a choice such as my painting given to me by my old boss that looks like my dog laying between two French doors as the autumn leaves blow in, or my purple bunny from childhood, or even my pearls. (I refuse to mention my dogs because I do not believe they are property to be distributed but beings of which you have custody of).
I’ve seen judges who will direct one person to make two lists of things for each of them to take from the home and then allow the other person to pick which list they want. Sometimes they’ll tell the person before that they’re doing that, or they’ll let them make a list thinking it’s going to be theirs and then say, “Okay, now give that to your spouse. That’s their personal property.” I’ve seen judges include everything that is in the home as part of the marital estate to be divided simply because it was in the marital home and thus used as marital property. The thing about things is that you have an emotional connection to it. Sure, you may not go back into a burning building for it, but when it comes to divorce, you’d lay down your checkbook to fight over it.
The general rule over personal property is that anything purchased during the marriage is seen as personal property. However, things that you brought into the marriage that you purchased or were given to you before you got married, things that are inherited or given to you as a gift are seen as your sole personal property. These, normally, will not be divided. These “things” are normally for you to keep as your own to take with you when you go. I know that I made a joke about giving up your “things” so you can make a Christmas List with new or better items to replace them, but sometimes the emotional toll in giving up these items is too much.
Here are a few tips to prove these are your things and not your spouses:
- Pictures of you with these things dated years back.
- Testimony or Affidavits of witnesses. These people can prove that your parents gave you the ugly orange chair or giant cat picture years before you two were even an item.
- Legal documents showing that you alone are the owner of the item. (Wills, Bills of Sale, Contracts, etc.)