Divorce is rarely a walk in the park, and when it comes to dividing property, it can feel like navigating a maze. However, approaching this process with creativity, an open mind, and flexibility can make it a lot smoother. In this blog, we’ll explore some creative solutions for dividing property in divorce mediation, with a focus on the types of property typically involved.
Types of Property Handled in Divorce Mediation
Before we dive into the creative solutions, let’s look at the types of property typically involved in divorce mediation:
- Real Estate: The family home is often one of the most significant assets to divide. This can be a sentimental and challenging piece of property to negotiate. Other investment properties may also be a significant asset to divide, especially if they have positive cash flows.
- Personal Property: This includes items like furniture, electronics, artwork, vehicles, and jewelry. Sorting through these can be both emotional and frustrating.
- Financial Assets: Bank accounts, investments, and retirement accounts can be hotly contested. Money matters often add complexity to divorce negotiations.
- Business Interests: If you and your spouse own a business together, this can further complicate the division of assets.
Creative Solutions from a California Divorce Mediator
Now, let’s explore some creative approaches to tackle dividing property in divorce.
1. The Swap Game
Imagine this as a fun, real-life game of trading cards. You and your soon-to-be ex-spouse make lists of items you desire most, and then you take turns “swapping” items until both parties are satisfied. It’s a way to ensure that both individuals get what they really want without too much fuss. Ok, but in all seriousness, you can certainly begin the division of assets by utilizing a system that allows each partner to indicate what pieces matter most to them.
Perhaps one party really wants the home, and the other party wants a fresh start. No one will know that there is a way to meet both parties’ interests if what each party actually desires is never discussed. There will be financial terms that need to be analyzed and overall equalization conversations to be had, but this is a great jumping off point.
For real estate, especially if you have children, clients often consider time-sharing, or what is commonly known as “nesting.” One of you can occupy the family home for a set period, and then it’s the other person’s turn. This arrangement provides stability for kids and can also reduce the urgency to sell the property quickly.
This is typically a short-term solution, as our clients can run out of the ability to continue sharing space after the divorce is final. But, if it is an option for you and your spouse to make this work for a while, then it can also be quite a cost savings for the family.
3. Creative Co-Ownership
If neither party is willing to part with the family home, consider creative co-ownership. This might involve turning the home into a duplex or creating separate living spaces. It can be a unique solution that allows both parties to remain connected to the property. The parties may be able to divide the home, and both continue to reside there – but with designated separate spaces. Or alternatively, they can co-own the property and each pull rent from the property.
If the couple’s long-term goal was to keep this property for the benefit of their children, that is a goal that can still be met, even if the parties no longer reside there.
4. Virtual Auction
For personal property, why not hold a virtual auction with all the assets you need to divide? Each spouse can bid on items, and the final allocation can be based on a pre-determined budget or fairness in valuation.
And if that sounds absolutely horrible to you, then we can default to the traditional way to divide personal property. We will ask that you inventory and place a value on the items (it will be your choice to inventory everything, or to only inventory the bigger, more valuable items). Once you have completed the inventory, you will mark what you would like to keep or take with you. If there are any items that you both want, we will have a discussion around those items. Otherwise, for the items you each agree to take or let go of, the cumulative value of the items will be calculated and added to your side of the ledger. Anything neither of you wish to keep will be sold or donated.
5. Prenup Perks
Sometimes, the best solutions are those made before marriage. If you had a prenuptial agreement in place, it might outline the division of assets in a way that saves you both time and heartache. If you did not have one, we highly recommend you consider it if you ever choose to remarry. Prenups are not what they used to be (well, ok, they kind of are), but what I mean is that prenups can be completed as a joint effort. Not just as a one-sided aggressive tactic to protect all that one person currently has, without any consideration for the other person and what they may have in the future.
There are easy steps to take that can protect you both in the event of a divorce. Sometimes, just having premarital mediation is enough, and a prenup is not necessary. More than anything, it is the act of having a conversation to ensure you and your soon to be spouse set proper expectations of the pending marriage. Lastly, it starts the relationship on the right foot regarding communication around hard topics and, remaining transparent and flexible with each other.
6. Seek Mediation and Expert Advice
If you are facing a divorce, consider professional help. A mediator can guide you through the process and provide valuable insights. They’ve seen creative solutions in action, and can help you come up with one that suits your unique circumstances.
Remember, divorce is not just about dividing property or assets; it’s also about starting a new chapter in your life. So, approach it with an open heart and a dash of creativity. After all, you’ll want to look back on this period with the knowledge that you did your best to make the transition as smooth and amicable as possible, for yourself, and for your children.
With the right attitude and a willingness to think outside the box, you can find a property division solution that works for both parties. Contact West Coast Family Mediation Center to learn how you can benefit from divorce mediation and financial planning.