Posted by Kit O'Brien, Senior Associate
What personal assets are included in divorce?
A recent report found that judges are increasingly unlikely to look at dividing personal possessions in divorce settlements. This means that valuable items like designer watches, jewellery or handbags may be kept by the owner.
So is this something new and if you’re contemplating divorce should you see buying expensive items as a means of maximising your assets?
The reality is that courts have always done their best not to get involved in disputes about personal possessions. The vast majority of personal belongings will not be worth arguing about; you can replace most things for less than it will cost you in legal fees to fight over them. Many electricals depreciate so fast after purchase that they will not have sufficient value to justify an argument on divorce.
Judges rarely have as much time as they would want or need to deal with these cases and arguments about possessions have always been discouraged. This could mean that valuable items aren’t debated at all. There may well be some less scrupulous people who will see this as an opportunity to invest in valuable and disposable assets as they prepare to divorce in the hope that these won’t be scrutinised and brought into the equation.
Our advice for your personal possessions
Our advice is that it’s essential to be honest. If you have assets of real value that are likely to maintain their value, they should be brought into the equation. If you try and sweep them under the carpet you run the risk of being required to value them if the court thinks they shouldn’t go unnoticed. If a valuation confirms that suspicion you may well find that all the possessions you want to keep come under rather closer scrutiny than they might otherwise have done!
As a general rule, don’t waste time valuing your general furniture and possessions or try and attribute a value to them as part of the assets being divided. But if your car is a Lamborghini rather than a Lada and your jewellery comes from Cartier rather than Claire’s Accessories, it’s probably best to view them as assets rather than just your personal possessions!
For further information on the courts approach to dividing income and assets you can download our factsheet or speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers.
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