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Divorce: Is it really about the stuff?

Divorce is the process of dissolution of marriage and dividing up personal property in a fair and reasonable manner. Often it is not that simple. People get attached to their stuff and dig in pretty hard. This struggle takes focus off the end result and interferes with what you want to accomplish. There is almost never a reason to involve your lawyer or the family court judge in dividing up your household items. Generally there is not enough value there to make it worth the time and expense. Plus, no one knows as well as you how best to divide up your stuff. The goal is to make the division as painless as possible.

Divorce coaches work with clients to develop the concept of best possible outcome and the steps necessary to accomplish it.  Stepping back and looking at the big picture is one strategy to do this. Letting go of the past and choosing to take control of your life gives you the perspective to effectively divide your property. This is a bit like horse trading and being flexible and negotiating without being stuck on specifics often can break up impasses and show the other spouse you are willing to negotiate and that you are open to different possibilities.

How to do it:

If your already separated it is likely the person who has moved out likely has taken some of the household items. I encourage the couple to schedule a time to walk through the house and make a master list of the items in the home. Then the person who has moved out can identify items they want and if the other spouse is agreeable those items can be taken out. A list of the items already removed is also a good idea and will facilitate the process. Physically removing the items you can agree on gets the ball rolling and reinforces the future you are creating apart. It also gives you less to fight about when you do not have to see the items every day. If there are items you can’t agree on, create a list of the remaining items and see if you can each take an item and this will help you reduce the list. Stay calm, keep your emotions in check and be flexible. It is also effective in some cases to break this in to several sessions and give your soon to be ex some time to think about what they are willing to do.

Alternative plan for spouse that do not get along:

Each spouse makes a list and shares it with the other via email . Each can work through it gradually building consensus. Then a mutually agreeable time can be set to collect the items and remove them from the property.

Often giving up something that is sentimental or important to your ex will allow them to reciprocate and then you get something you want. This process changes the game from winning at all cost (my way or the highway) and reduces legal fees and produces more equitable distributions. Not being stuck and following the action plan allows you to let go of the negativity, make progress and helps you re-assess your priorities and move forward with your future. Good luck and remember it is ok to let go!

Robert M. Bilsker, M.S. CDC

Certified Divorce Coach



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