You've decided what to do with the house. You've figured out what will happen to the family's retirement accounts and investments. You've even agreed on what should happen to your small boat. But what about everything else you own, from your books to your dishes to your bed sheets to your family photos?

When many people think about divorce and division of property in Washington State, they think about the big stuff, like houses and bank accounts. However, you also have to think about the small stuff that you have shared with your spouse, from your favorite knick-knack to your family computer. Called "personal property," these small items can cause big conflicts during the divorce process.

While Washington State courts will help families with big-ticket items, they will not often participate in dividing small pieces of property that mostly only have real value to the divorcing couple - and fighting over small things using legal teams can quickly get costly. In most situations, it is up to the couple to figure out how to split the contents of their home.

How, then, are couples supposed to fairly, quickly, and successfully split their personal property? Here are a few tips:


  • Make a list. Don't blindly start asking for certain things - make a thorough list of what you own and what it would be worth if you tried to sell it. Be sure to note if some items, such as furniture sets or collections, should remain grouped together.

  • Remove gifts and items owned before marriage. If an item was a personal gift - such as a piece of jewelry - it is yours to keep. If you purchased an item before the wedding, it also remains yours.

  • Make known what items are most important to you. Both you and your spouse should list a few select items that have more significance than others. You can also list items that you have no interest in keeping.

  • Remember that compromise is king. Realize that you aren't going to get to keep everything that you wish to - and that you spouse will also be losing items that he or she wants.

  • Get creative. Couples have come up with dozens of fair ways to split personal items - from coin flips to silent auctions to arbitrators. Pick a strategy that works for both of you and plow forward!


Are you looking for a Mercer Island divorce lawyer to assist with your division of property and other legal issues? Seattle family law and divorce attorney Molly Kenny may be able to help. Call today for more information.

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington