You and your spouse enjoyed a high standard of living during your marriage, and now that you are divorcing, you have considerable personal property to divide. When you sit down at the negotiation table with your spouse, you each have a list of things you want, and you plan to be reasonable.

Unfortunately, your spouse believes he or she should have a disproportionate number of the assets, claiming that they have sentimental value but are not worth much. What do you do?

Inventory the assets

The personal property inventory you create should not just be a list of objects. You also need to include the following catalog of information for each:

  • Description and photograph of the item
  • What type of object it is
  • Its measurements
  • What it is made of and how
  • Inscriptions, markings, unique physical features
  • Provenance
  • Title and/or subject

Hire appraisers

You will need to have experts do research to determine the fair market value of each item. This is the amount the item would sell for in a variety of appropriate marketplaces, such as galleries, auction houses, private dealers and others. Because the quality and condition are so important, you should hire an appraiser who specializes in that type of object, whether it be jewelry, sculpture, baseball card collections or some other potentially valuable item.

The court system puts a lot of faith in the judge to make a fair decision, and the fate of your settlement may be up to his or her discretion. So, you want to make sure that your appraisers have the utmost credibility, especially if they will be testifying against your spouse’s appraisers, who may try to undervalue the items. Look for someone with a membership with a professional association, such as the International Society of Appraisers. It is also a good idea to make sure the appraiser uses the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice.