Oh how the high-conflict divorce situation brings out the worst in some personalities…
A long time ago, we heard of an idea that was so simple it seemed entirely too silly to work. Of course, we know how litigation and the court system make their collective livings by making things as complicated and convoluted as possible. The longer you’re kept fighting over “stuff” – the longer the meter is running. The longer it’s running – the more money there is to be made off of you. In the meantime, you two are busy fighting over items that don’t cost nearly as much as it’s costing you to argue over them!
Now, there is obviously no guarantee that this plan will work, but you should be open to considering it. This plan is not intended for use with “big ticket” items like the house, the car, the boat, the lear jet (should you have any one or more of these at stake), etc. Of course, maybe you’re willing to throw those items into the mix, too. This plan is intended for the general household items: tables, end tables, the dining room set, the sofas, the recliners, the televisions, the china, the tupperware, the silverware, the clocks, the bedroom set, the stuffed animals collection, the doll collection, the fishing rods, sports jerseys, costume jewelry, and every single other little thing that we find so many divorcing parties arguing incessantly over. Yes, they do litigate over such things and many even more ridiculous.
It is important to make this plan legally binding if at all possible, so if attorneys are involved, each party should sign-off on the plan, because once these lists are exchanged, there is no turning back. A wise man once told me…
- Make a checklist of every item in and around the house that needs to be divided up. Make a copy for each side. (Party A and Party B)
- Each party is to put a check next to all of the items that they want and not divulge their desires or any part of their completed list to the other.
- When completed, each party is to give a copy of their list to the other party.
- Anything that is checked by Party A that is NOT checked by Party B… is awarded to Party A… and vice versa. All single-party checked items are awarded and final. No dollar value will be applied to any of the items kept by either party now or for any future consideration. You get to keep what you wanted and the other party did not want regardless of value. Why? If you didn’t want it, then the value to you is $0. That’s right, $0, regardless of the item’s actual value. No party is “giving” the other anything.
This leaves a list of double-checked, or what we’ll call “the contested items.” In advance of the above exercise, both parties must agree to one of two methods of resolution. They are:
The Final Auction Method:
Every single contested item after the double run-through of the process above is sold at absolute auction, with no reserve pricing, and the net proceeds split 50/50.
Now, this item is rife for abuse by a high-conflict personality who will check off everything, no matter how ridiculous, just to force its sale. They don’t really want every item, they just don’t want the other party to have any of it and will even sacrifice their own wants if it means the other side won’t get anything that they want. Which brings us to the method that drives some serious decision-making.
Appraisal and Auction Method:
- The costs of an appraiser are split 50/50 and every contested item, no matter how ridiculous, is appraised and given a dollar value.
- The lists are then given again to each party with each contested item along with their dollar value.
- Now, each party must decide what they really want. Why? Because a dollar value goes with it if the other party really wants it and restitution will be paid by one party to the other, unless in some very unlikely result – the values are identical at the end.
- Go back to the previously mentioned process and do it again, but only 1 time through.
- Anything that is checked by Party A that is NOT checked by Party B… is awarded to Party A… and vice versa. All single-party checked items are awarded and final. Neither party can go back after the fact and say, “Well, if s/he don’t want that, I’ll take it!”
- All double-checked and double-unchecked items will go to auction and the proceeds split in such a way that the imbalance in the value of the items kept by each party is resolved so that each party is awarded items and net proceeds equally. In the event that the auction doesn’t close the balance to 50/50, the party with the higher value is required to pay for the difference to make the distribution 50/50.
Party A retained contested items with a value of $12,000.
Party B retained contested items with a value of $6,000.
Auction items yielded net proceeds of $8,000.
Total = $26,000. Each party gets $13,000 in “cash and prizes.” Party A gets $1,000 of the auction proceeds. Party B gets $5,000 of the auction proceeds for 50/50 distribution of the household items.
Party A retained contested items with a value of $25,000.
Party B retained contested items with a value of $10,000.
Auction items yielded net proceeds of $10,000.
Total = $45,000. Each party gets $22,500 in “cash and prizes.” Party A gets none of the auction proceeds. Party B gets all $10,000 of the auction proceeds. As there is still a deficit in the value between the parties ($25,000 for Party A and $20,000 for Party B), Party A is required to pay within a specified time-frame (we recommend 10 working days) $2,500 for 50/50 distribution of the household items in the amount of $22,500.
The beauty of the the last method is that it drives people to decide what they really, truly want to take. It puts the vindictive party at risk that something that they simply don’t want the other person to have – might actually be something that their target ultimately decides isn’t worth the hassle. Therefore, if they’ve checked it on the final run-through and their target hasn’t – it’s theirs and the value of the item along with it.
Read it again. Let it sink in. If you’re haggling over “the small stuff” and it’s dragging things out… consider using one of the two options above to get things finalized. I can tell you this, and it’s really the same with divorce, custody, and anything else during such a messy situation – the last person you want deciding these matters – is a judge.
Good luck and, if you use one of these methods, let us know how it worked out. If you have already used such a method or something similar, write us and tell us about it! Email or a comment here would be great!