Personal Property, In General

I have had a strong preference to not valuing personal property, but to make divisions in kind. First, even in areas where there is a strong market history as a "collectible" (see the discussion on Baseball Cards), evaluation can be very treacherous. Second, anything that is not a collectible is likely to be have limited fair market value. Most personal property sells for a dime on a dollar (if that) via yard sale. This can be true even for items of high quality. Third, personal property tends not to have "equivalent" values to the litigants. A wifeís clothing may be very valuable to her, but is likely to be worth next to zero to her husband, who cannot liquidate the clothing for anything more than the 12ptest fraction of purchase price. Fourth, some items have an emotional value that is not susceptible to a market value.

My vision is that the methodology for choosing is more important than the division that is made. The most logical and common sequence of events allows parties to create an inventory of their property and then fashion a division consistent with their internal utility values---dividing the properties based upon what each person perceives as the most valuable to him or her. ["I will take most of the tools, you can take most of the cooking utensils and kitchen items."] In this process if items cannot be resolved, these are left "to the side" and can usually (99%+ of the time) be divided via mediation or (if necessary) via a recommendation by a referee or decision by the court.

Aside from this rational process there are other methods for making personal property divisions, either for subsets of property or the entirety of personal items. One possibility is a "draft", the parties choosing items in alternation. This can work well when there is a subset of reasonably comparable items to be divided. The other is the (draconian but useful) "auction", each party "bidding" for items in sequence. At the close of the auction the person making the higher bids owes the other Ĺ of the difference in the respective totals in cash. There are two very nice features to the "auction". First, it often does not need supervision from counsel or court personnel. Second, in my experience at referee hearings, parties are never able to complete the auction. In my experience, after a few items, the parties view the process as "silly" or "humiliating" or "demeaning" and resort to a more rational method---"why donít you just take xyz and Iíll take abc."