Archive for Property

How can we divide personal property without going crazy?

Sometimes it is most difficult in divorce cases to divide personal property —the “stuff” accumulated over the years of a relationship. When people share their lives with each other, they also share and accumulate a lot of personal property. Sometimes the task of dividing the household furniture, furnishings and appliances can be a real struggle. Not only can it be difficult to physically divide and value the assets, it can be a real emotional rollercoaster.

I mediated for a divorcing couple recently, who had their most difficult struggles dividing the pots, pans, furniture, washer, dryer, stereo and those little knick-knacks they picked up at the swap meet over the years. Worse they were on the “pack rat” side of things so they accumulated a lot of things together. Each item represented something important. One piece of artwork reminded them of their romantic vacation in Mexico. The silver they had purchased together to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. The little statuette on the mantel was a gift from their child. All through the house they saw many symbols of their relationship and all that they had invested in each other. As a result, a task to divide personal property was extremely painful.

Here are some tips to help you divide personal property:

Understand that the court would only award a household asset at garage sale value.

divorce, personal property, divide personal property, san diego divorce attorneyUnless it is a Steinway Grand Piano or a rare piece of artwork, the chances are high that your stuff is not worth nearly what you may think. While you are looking at the values of things, think of what you would, as an objective outsider, pay for the item at a garage sale or a flea market. Be careful not to allow emotions to “inflate” in your mind the value of the flatware or the coffee maker. Yes we know that the teddy bear collection is absolutely adorable, but honestly, what would a third person really want to pay for it. Use common sense and don’t allow your emotions to cloud things for you when you divide personal property.

Do it yourself.

It is really not cost effective to pay your attorney $300 plus per hour to fight about who gets which couch or who gets the bath mat. If it’s a high dollar asset such as expensive artwork or collectable antiques, you may want to use your professionals. But, for most things it makes more sense to save the money and do it yourself.

Do an inventory first.

It’s a good idea early in the process and before you start dividing things to make a list. If time is a problem, I often recommend going through the house with a video camera and speaking about each item as you tape. You can then go make your list later.

Make a list to divide personal property.

In fact, make several lists. I suggest four columns. Column 1 means he gets it. Column 2 means she gets it. Sell everything you list in column three and divide what money you get equally. Column 4 is for those things in your closet to throw away or donate like the polyester suit in the closet, your old beta video tapes or the pile of Louis L’Amour novels that you haven’t read in twenty years. Notice, I am not including a list for items about which you cannot agree. I am a big believer in using the old Solomon method. If you can’t agree on who gets it, then sell it or donate it. You simply can’t afford, for most items, to spend the time arguing and spending money on your attorneys. One idea, if you are stuck, is to just take turns picking items you can’t agree on until they are gone. Another idea is to give extremely sentimental items as gifts to your children.

Make a plan for photographs and videos.

I recommend that you choose a date when each of you will make photographs and videos taken during the marriage available to the other. The person making the photograph or video available will allow the other to choose which ones her or she would like to duplicate. There are services available that can duplicate these items and even restore some of them for you for a reasonable fee. With today’s computers, scanners and printers, you may be able to do a lot of this yourselves. Each of you should share equally in the duplication costs.

Pets, according to the law, are property.

I have had many clients tell me how their pets have become nearly as important to them as children. They are often surprised to learn that the court deals with them not as living things so much as property. Few courts will entertain a pet “custody battle.” Remember, a court has the ability to truly play Solomon with your pets and order them sold. I advise parties to do everything they can to work it out relating to the pets. Do everything possible to consider your pets’ needs and do what is best for them rather than allowing them to become an issue of property division.

Be careful if there is a history of domestic violence.

In cases where there has been domestic violence, sometimes it is difficult to sit together and divide personal property. In such instances, it is probably advisable to go ahead and use your attorney as at least a go between. Naturally, if there are restraining orders in place, it would be impossible to meet face to face. But the same ideas described above apply. It is just you will need to make arrangements to inventory the house without the other being present and with proper legal arrangements. Don’t violate a restraining order just to get some stuff out of the house.

I have had many clients tell me that the process of dividing the personal items was a healthy cleansing process.

One client told me, it was nice to get rid of some of our old, useless stuff and start over for a fresh, clean break. If even after following these steps, a couple still finds it difficult emotionally, I recommend making use of a divorce coach, who can even come to your home while you do the division. Typically using a single divorce coach is much more cost effective than using your attorneys to divide household items.

If both parties approach the task to divide personal property with a fair, patient and open mind they will likely be successful in doing the division with little to no attorney intervention. The court’s are particularly happy when parties can reach agreements on their own. Parties should be careful not to allow the division of things bring unnecessary conflict. Remember, they are just things and not people.

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WSJ: Surprisingly high number of people

WSJ: Surprisingly high number of people who hide money from their spouse. What do you think?

My Fourth Appearance on The Real Estate Radio Hour on ESPN 1700 AM

By Shawn Weber, JD, CLS-F

On April 4, I had another opportunity to go on San Diego ESPN 1700’s Real Estate Radio with my good friend and fellow collaborative divorce practitioner, Justin Reckers, CFP®, CDFA, AIF®.  It was a great opportunity because we had the full hour to ourselves to talk about divorce processes.  I have been a long believer that people facing a divorce need to take control early and decide what process they wish to use to complete their divorce. So many people and attorneys just jump straight to litigation, which for most people, is the the very worst way to transition a family.  It is more expensive and more destructive.

I was pleased that Justin and I had the chance to tell about mediation and collaborative divorce as excellent options for parties to reduce cost, take control of the outcome and transition their families in as healthy a way as possible.

Listen to the whole show here:

The Real Estate Radio Hour on ESPN 1700 AM


Shawn Weber, J.D., CLS-F

Justin A. Reckers, CFP®, CDFA™, AIF®

Love and Real Estate: Family Law Attorney Shawn Weber’s 3rd Appearance on San Diego AM 1700 ESPN Radio on “The Real Estate Radio Hour”

San Diego Mediator Shawn Weber the Dolphin Lawyer on ESPN Real Talk San Diego talking about mediation

The “Dolphin Lawyer” Shawn Weber

I was happy to make another appearance on the Real Estate Radio Hour on San Diego AM 1700 ESPN Radio.  This time I was able to talk to hosts Ryan White and David McElveen about Collaborative Divorce, Mediation, deferred sale of the family residence and “nesting” where the kids get the house and the parents pack their bags instead of the kids.  It’s a lot of fun to sit down with Ryan and David to talk about “Love and Real Estate” — especially right before Valentine’s Day!

Give it a listen and let me know what you think!

Here’s the link to the podcast: View in iTunes

Real Estate Radio 2013-02-12

Family Law Attorney Shawn Weber’s 2nd Appearance on Real Estate Radio @ San Diego ESPN 1700

1700 AM Real Estate Radio Thursdays 1 – 2 PM

I had the opportunity last Thursday to make my second appearance on Real Estate Radio on San Diego ESPN AM 1700.  It was a lot of fun and I got the chance to discuss issues about family law and real estate (“Love and Real Estate”) as well as my affection for Collaborative Divorce as an alternative to litigation for couples going through a family law case.  Give it a listen and let me know what you think.

Listen here: Real Estate Radio @ ESPN 1700

For a free telephone consultation about Family Law and Real Estate or about Collaborative Divorce, contact Shawn Weber at 858-345-1616 or visit our website at

Love and Real Estate: In the State of California, if I own the property before we get married does she still get it if we break up?

By Shawn Weber, Attorney at Law

No. In California divorce law, it is important to distinguish “community property” from “separate property”. §761 of the California Family Code provides that “except as otherwise provided by statute, all property, real or personal, wherever situated, acquired by a married person during the marriage while domiciled in this state is community property.” But, §770 of the California Family Code provides that separate property of a married person includes the following: (1) all property owned prior to the marriage; (2) all property acquired after the marriage by gift or inheritance; and (3) all rents, issues and profits of any separate property asset.

When a couple divorces in California, the court will divide all of the community property in half and award 100% of the separate property to its respective owner.  This means that if you own property prior to getting married it remains your separate property even after you break up. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For instance, if you commingle your assets you can make an asset community property. Also, if you make a down payment on a piece of real estate with separate property funds prior to the marriage, but throughout your marriage you make mortgage payments from your community wages, your spouse will have a community interest in that property known as a Moore-Marsden interest, which is calculated with a formula based upon the amount of loan principal paid from community funds. However, you will get your separate property down payment back.

For a free consultation about your property and family law, call San Diego Attorney Shawn Weber at 858-410-0144.