By: Stephen J. Plog
In the past, you may have heard stories about people fighting over the pots and pans as part of their divorce case. When stories like this are told, it is usually done to emphasize how acrimonious a divorce case might have been. However, we, as divorce attorneys, have literally seen people fight over pots and pans and have even written about such, some years back, in a prior divorce blog post regarding battles of tangible, marital property. Though attorneys will generally indicate to clients that most courts do not want to get involved with dividing up dishes, furnishings, pictures, appliances, and other household items, in some cases there may actually be items of tangible, personal property of value which need to be factored in to the marital estate and divided. The impetus for deviating from the norm of just physically splitting the household goods between the parties is going to be value. Couches, televisions, and the like are just like cars. They are generally going to be depreciating assets which, though important from a use standpoint, have no significant monetary value. However, items such as artwork, guns, collectibles, jewelry, coins, etc. might.
In instances in which there are significant, distinct property items, or even just one item, which either spouse believes to be of worth, the situation might call for obtaining a formal appraisal, much as one might do with a house or other piece of real estate. The challenge people might face is finding an appraiser or “expert” to do the valuation. Keep in mind that whether for settlement or court trial purposes, a value needs to be determined and just going into court and saying, “I think this necklace is worth ‘$'” would be a risky, if not a silly approach. Additionally, when looking for someone to appraise personal, tangible property, your divorce lawyer is going to be looking for someone with the credentials or experience to be worthy of potentially coming to court to testify as an “expert” within the meaning of Colorado Rules of Evidence. Courts want to know that the person coming in to speak about a specific piece or classification of marital property knows what they are talking about. Of course, valuations of personal property, including reports and testimony, cost money. Thus, the initial determination, which may take some guess work on the part of both attorney and client, is whether, from a cost/benefit analysis standpoint, it’s really worth it to even raise the issue, engage the expert, etc.