Marriage is bliss…until it’s not. While divorce can either be an uplifting start to a new life or a prolonged mourning period over lost love — probably both — the practical matter of dividing up a household can be emotionally draining.
A house or apartment filled with years’ worth of stuff is going to take some time and energy to divide post-divorce. While the possessions you owned before you were married are generally considered yours, any items purchased or gifted after marriage are jointly owned. This is where things can get messy.
Here are a few tips to deal with diving up a household after divorce.
1. Avoid impulse trashing during the divorce
While you might feel like tossing everything that reminds you of your spouse into the garbage, be smart. Take some time to cool down. Physically remove yourself from the environment — try a walk or visit with friends when decluttering the detritus of the relationship gets too intense.
Matrimonial mediation specialist Nadia Shahram, Esq., suggests separating emotions from items as much as possible. Some time away from the house may do some good, and someday, when your divorce is comfortably behind you, you may be glad you didn’t throw away those crocheted pot holders you bought on your honeymoon.
2. Create a post-divorce inventory
After you’ve cooled down, Shahram recommends separating “mine” from “his” or “her” items in your home.
“Whatever is jointly owned, put a tag on it,” she says. “Then, settle a price on the joint items and negotiate a fair price.”
It’s helpful to take photos of items and save the value along with the image in a single digital document. For any high-priced item, such as jewelry or a piece of art, get an appraisal from an expert to determine the value. Divorce is not the best time to wrangle with your spouse over the value of a big-ticket item you both may want — or simply notm want the other to have.
Worst-case scenario? Swallow hard and sell.
“If there are pieces on which you can’t agree,” Shahram advises, “sell and divide the proceeds 50/50.”
3. Divorce is time to downsize
Going through a divorce often requires downsizing to a smaller home or apartment — or, in some cases, bunking with family or friends until everything is sorted out.
Stash your seasonal clothing, furniture, kids toys, appliances, etc., in storage or at a friend or relative’s house until you have a more permanent place to keep them. Take inventory of your storage unit with photos and a running list. To make things easier on you, only take items to your self storage facility that were yours pre-marriage or post-divorce. Your soon-to-be ex won’t be able to access your self storage rental without your consent.
4. Take note of important papers
As you move towards divorce, make copies of all pertinent documents (such as your marriage certificate, prenuptial agreement, birth certificate, deeds, tax returns, etc.). Put the papers in a safe — and put that safe in storage in the home of someone you trust. This will ensure that your documents are exactly where you expect them to be whenever you need to access them.
Divorces are the toughest time in many people’s lives. Following these steps won’t end the heartache, but will help you rest a little easier while you work towards a happier future.
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