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Manual > 11 - Property and Debt > Personal Property

Personal Property

There are a number of reasons why the parties' discussion of personal property division can be challenging. In fact, given the number of items that most married couples have to divide, the entire mediation is at risk of becoming bogged down in discussing these issues. As with most issues, it may be best to begin the parties' discussion by asking them about property and debt division aspects they may agree on and what each of them would like to achieve. These "easy agreements" become the first pieces of the parties' property and debt division puzzle. It is helpful for the mediator to examine the goals and interests behind their "easy decisions" and also to examine whether these decisions may be made according to principles or standards that may also be applicable to other issues. The mediator may also want to help the parties understand the practical implications of their "points of agreement." 

When it comes to dividing personal property, perhaps the easiest way for parties to proceed is to inventory each room, listing all significant items and, if they like, defining a value (or values) for each item. Based upon this listing, parties can make all allocation decisions that come easily. In making such "easy" decisions, it is suggested that parties receiving property take that property either at an agreed-upon value or at the highest listed value. Having made such initial allocation decisions, the parties may want to identify each party's tentative sub-total value as this is the new context for seeking to work out the remaining issues.

As to the remaining personal property issues, it may loosen things up to ask the parties to see if they can establish any "package deals" by grouping items for exchange. Finally, if nothing else works, it is suggested that the parties either have an auction regarding the remaining items. Another option is to alternate choice.

Ultimately, the parties will need to come to a determination of what each of them is to receive and also whether there is any greater value given to one party over the other that should be recognized and balanced.

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