As anyone who has ever gone through a break-up knows, whether it’s with a spouse in divorce or significant other in a relationship, equitable distribution is anything but equal. After you factor in depreciation in values, sentimentalities of objects, and other non-quantifiable criteria, what you believe something is worth may be vastly different than someone else’s valuation of the same thing. Everything has its price. But, how much will you be willing to spend to defend your position? What will it cost you in mediation or litigation to fight for that lamp? That coffee table? The marble chess set? Will it be worth it in the end?
The scenario is not unique from couple-to-couple. Whether it’s a car, family heirloom “worth thousands (of dollars)” or the wedding-gift china set that gets used once a year, most people place a higher value on the objects that have special meaning or memories for them. Unfortunately, the tussle over these objects in an attempt to achieve “equal” equitable distribution can cost more than the actual value of the objects themselves. To avoid the pitfall of delaying the process of your split by nickel-and-diming the value of every object on each side of the table, consider the following:
- Do I really need it?
- Do I really want it, or, do I want it because the other person wants it?
- Could I buy another one for less than it will cost me to fight over it?
One approach to the equitable distribution process is to focus on your interest, not position, over the item. Rather than trying to equalize the distribution dollar-for-dollar, think about the items themselves and don’t worry if the other person is “getting more.” And difficult though it may be, it’s sometimes a good idea to walk-away and give-up on those battles that aren’t worth the effort and costs including $250 – $500/hour (or more) for paralegals, attorneys, and/or mediators to divvy-up your stuff. Remember: You win the moment you get out of the relationship completely, and that’s worth more than anything.
Diane L. Danois, J.D.
Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Law Mediator