We deal with two types of property in Utah divorces: real property and personal property.
Real Property v. Personal Property
Real property is where all the money is. We’re talking about homes, farms, buildings, etc.
Personal property is less sexy, more mundane. Personal property is you own that isn’t real property, e.g.: clothes, jewelry, furniture, cars, and all your other stuff.
Dividing real property is usually straightforward for a couple reasons. First, not many people can afford to keep homes and farms when they divorce — it’s just took expensive. Second, there usually isn’t that much of it. It just doesn’t take long to divide one house.
There’s so much real property in a person’s home (the average American home contains approximately 300,000 objects) that it can be a daunting task to divide it all.
How to Divide Personal Property
Because personal property is usually so much less valuable than real property, people don’t want to pay an attorney $300 per hour to divide it.
Instead, almost 100% of people getting divorced divide their stuff without the help of attorneys. Even if they hire attorneys to help them with the rest of their divorce (e.g., child custody, debt allocation), they sit down and divide their personal property without attorney help.
Here are the most common ways I’ve seen people divide their stuff:
- The stealing method.
This method is usually the most contentious personal property dividing method. It usually involves one couple living in the marital home, and the other spouse breaking in and stealing whatever he or she can at night.
- The come-get-your-damn-boxes method.
Only slightly less contentious than the stealing method is the come-get-your-damn-boxes method. This consists of one person kicking someone out of the home, putting all their stuff in boxes, putting those boxes in the driveway for pick up, and then texting the other person something like, “Come get your damn boxes before it rains.”
- The you-pick-I-pick method.
The you-pick-I-pick method is simple: one person picks and item, then the next person picks an item, until all the items are gone. It’s essentially the same way we picked teams for kickball when we were kids.
- The list method.
In this method, everyone makes a list of the items they would like or that are most important to them. If there are things both people request on their lists, they get together and talk about how to divide those things.
- The get-together-and-talk method.
In the get-together-and-talk method, spouses, well, get together and talk about how they’ll divide their personal stuff. The conversation can (and usually does) get a little heated, but you can work through that and figure things out. This is by far the most enlightened (and easiest) method for dividing personal property.
In the end, your best course is to sit down and talk about your stuff and how it should be divided. You’ll save a lot of money and grief compared to the other, less open communication methods.