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What to do if you disagree when dividing assets during a divorce

Dividing assets is one of the most important components in a divorce. The key is to divide everything fairly, which, in some instances, is not always equal. At the same time, the bigger, long-term items should not be overlooked.


Do

Do make lists and inventories of property

When it comes to personal property - household items, jewelry, etc. - lists can be helpful. This will help you to focus on what is important. You don’t necessarily want to divide your kitchen down to the last fork (although this has happened for divorcing couples), so it is once again important to focus on the things that you need and the things that are important for you to keep.

Do hire experts for appraisals and valuations

When it comes to homes, businesses and certain retirement accounts, getting an accurate value is important. Don’t guess at values or use inaccurate information. Getting your house appraised or having a financial professional provide a valuation of a pension or related benefits are in your best interest.

Do identify the items that are important to you

It is important to focus on your short- and long-term goals. Do you need liquid assets now? If so, you may want to trade your share of retirement assets for cash accounts. Also, it may make sense to hold onto a certain property or house as a long-term investment. Then again, as many people learned with the downturn of the housing market in the past few years, this may be a bad investment decision. The lesson here is to make decisions that are in your best interest and not emotional ones.

Do make settlement proposals

Some couples even argue over a specific couch, pool table or other item. Many of these disagreements are fueled by emotion and not logic or reason. When it comes to assets, you either split the asset or you sell it and divide the proceeds. Some things may need to be sold. Others are not worth the time and trouble it will take to sell them. Instead of arguing endlessly, set a ground rule that the only discussion will consist of one of you making a settlement offer and the other responding, either by agreeing, or making a counter proposal. This eliminates the emotional and unproductive dialogue and endless arguments.

Do compromise

Divorce is a tough process, but you can avoid making it tougher, and more expensive, by working toward a fair solution. It helps to accept that you will not get everything you want, so identify the things you can agree to live without and be prepared to make compromises.


Don't

Do not sweat the small stuff

It’s not a joke when I say that couples divide the kitchen contents down to each fork. Some couples do the same thing with children’s toys, used furniture and pretty much everything else under the roof. As difficult as it is, try to manage your emotions during this process and, remember that some stuff is simply that, stuff.

Do not run to the courthouse

Some people have often said in anger, “If I don’t get X, I will see you in court.” There are reasons why going to court is necessary. But it is also time consuming, expensive and there is no guarantee that things will go your way. Keep in mind that 90 percent of people who get divorced settle without going to court and having a judge decide. They found a way to reach an agreement they can live with and, chance are, you can as well.

Do not give up the big stuff

Many people who just want to “be nice” or agreeable or those who want to settle quickly will agree to waive any interest in a business or the retirement accounts or benefits of the other party. These may be the biggest, or, in some cases, the only asset a couple has. Don’t be so quick to agree to keep these items off the table. You may be able to agree to let you spouse keep a certain asset, as long as you get your share of the value someplace else.

Do not give up on mediation or settlement because of a setback

Sometimes when the tension is high, people walk out of mediation over a disagreement that turned out to be resolvable. It is easy to let emotions get the better of you. Resist the urge to quit on the process just because you reach an issue that you believe can’t be resolved. When possible, put that issue aside and work on the other items in dispute. Once you’ve made progress with other issues, you will be amazed at how easy it is to resolve that seemingly impossible issue.

Do not forget about unconventional methods

Sometimes, there is an emotional deadlock over something with little financial value, such as used household furniture. If you absolutely cannot agree, and the items in dispute are not worth going to court over, try out an unconventional method like flipping a coin. While childhood games such as rock, paper, scissors or a coin toss may not seem like the best way to resolve an adult dispute, it’s a good idea to come up with a creative solution to break the deadlock.


Summary
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Dividing assets is an important part of the divorce process and one you do not want to shortchange or overlook. Reaching a fair division of property is the goal. To do that, you need to identify the assets being divided, have an understanding of their value, and work in the spirit of compromise. It may be difficult, but, with the assistance of a skilled family law mediator or a divorce attorney, you can get it done.


More expert advice about Surviving Divorce

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Lori BarkusFamily Law Attorney

South Florida Family Law Attorney Lori Barkus has 15 years of legal experience. She is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil and Family Law mediator, guardian ad litem and is trained in Collaborative Family Law. She handles matters ...

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