Create a Written and Video or Photographic Inventory of Your Personal Property Acquired During the Course of Your Marriage
In some cases, it makes sense to complete a thorough and detailed inventory of your personal property. While many people may not fight over kitchen appliances, cutlery and flatware, in some households these items may be worth tens of thousands of dollars and determining the value and distribution of these items may make sense in divorce litigation. Similarly, when parties have acquired expensive furniture and household furnishings and other items, it makes sense to document what is in the marital home and where it is located at the time of divorce. With most people now owning smart phones and hand held video cameras, it is our recommendation to our clients that they photograph and videotape their personal property. If an item goes missing during the divorce litigation, the photograph or video may provide invaluable evidence of the missing item and will help establish its value at trial.
Don't Forget to Include Collectibles and Sports Equipment in Your Inventory
Often overlooked by parties going through a divorce are collectibles acquired during the course of a marriage. Anything acquired during the marriage with marital funds is marital property subject to equitable distribution, including collectibles. Art, coins, stamps, first edition books, sports memorabilia and even something as arcane as comic books may be valuable personal property. Sports equipment too may also have significant value. Skiing equipment, bicycles, golf clubs and other similar items often have significant value. High performance bicycles can cost in excess of $10,000.00 and if there are a few of those in the garage, it may make sense to spend some time determining their value.
Jewelry and The Closet
Gifts are generally not marital property subject to equitable distribution, but if your spouse bought expensive jewelry for themselves during the marriage, those purchases are. Thus, the diamond watch you gave your spouse for your anniversary may not be marital property, but the jewelry he or she purchased for themselves using marital funds is. Also, don't forget about clothes. In one recent case from New York, a husband sued his wife for failing to disclose that she had purchased over $1,000,000 worth of shoes. (Yes, there are six zeroes following that number one.) The shoes were overlooked during the divorce and the husband subsequently learned their value.
Look Outside the Marital Home
Many people have several homes and it is important not to forget the personal property that may be at your other residences or properties. In addition, marital personal property may be kept at your spouse's office or place of business or held by a relative.