Dividing community property – the A/B list

How do household items get divided in a divorce? Usually the big ticket items, like the house, car, and pensions can be valued and a fair settlement reached. For instance, the Kelly Blue Book price of a car can be used to derive a value and one party can pay the other party their half share.

Often, however, smaller household items are more difficult to separate – the three TVs, 2 sofas, 3 beds, 2 sets of cutlery etc. While it is possible for two parties to sit down and agree on a division, it can often be difficult to split possessions in the heated atmosphere of a divorce.

One way to ensure a fair division is the so-called A/B list. In this process, one party prepares two lists of items that he or she thinks may fairly divide the household assets. The other party is then free to choose either List A or List B. Parties are then free to exchange items on their respective list by mutual agreement.

Notice that this system means the list preparer will be unlikely to put all the “good stuff” on one list because if the list is unbalanced the list selector will choose that list. Thus the division is likely to be fairly even.

In my case, I asked for an A/B division and the judge ordered it. My ex then failed to prepare the list, was re-ordered to do so by the judge, prepared a list and then withdrew the list before trial. After a five hour trial, my lawyer suggested dropping the list all together because the judge was threatening to extend the trial into another day (perhaps postponing the divorce for another six months).  I agreed in order to finalize the divorce on the day (and end extortionate temporary support payments) but received no household items (other than those in my possession that I had managed to throw in my car when I moved out.

I think this illustrates the dynamic nature of divorce proceedings and how a lengthy (and thus costly) legal process can sometimes trump other considerations (such as the right to half your household property).

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25 Responses to Dividing community property – the A/B list

  1. Antoniofww says:

    I could not agree with you more. The divorce process can get long and drawn out making for costly events for everyone involved. I know this is an extreme but it is still a perfect example:

    http://www.firstwivesworld.com/relevant-news/rachel-small/should-the-ex-get-half

    All my best,
    AntonioFWW
    http://www.firstwivesworld.com

  2. Celia says:

    Why not simply divide so-called “community” property on the basis of who actually paid for it? That is more or less how life is, now ins’t it.

  3. stevphel says:

    Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your situation) Nevada law says that all marital property is owned 50-50 – regardless of who paid for it. In my case, I mostly paid for it AND did not even get half. Moral: Don’t go to court looking for justice.

  4. Lucked Out says:

    I was married to a foreign national green card hustler for a very short time, she tried to pull the domestic violence routine when I told her I was filing for a divorce after a marriage of less than six months. The judge recognized this gal was a scammer and gave her a lump sum settlement of less than $10,000, mostly based on the fact she had a child to support. Before and during the divorce, this woman was under the impression that she was to get 50% of my assets as she would have in most other states. Because of Nevada law, she could not claim any of the assets I owned prior to marrying her, therefore I was able to protect my two homes, my retirement accounts and all of my personal property. Her only claim was to half the money, less monthly household expenses, that I earned while we were married. Had I been divorced in some other states I would have lost half of $500K in assets. The divorce was concluded after one day in court. I was a very lucky fellow indeed.

  5. Texas is also a community property State. A previous commenter said, “Why not simply divide so-called “community” property on the basis of who actually paid for it? That is more or less how life is, now ins’t it.” This is a normal laymen response, unfortunately does not follow the definition of community property, which includes all property accumulated during marriage that is not separate property (separate property examples include: property owned or acquired prior to marriage, property acquired during marriage by inheritance or gifts, and dispensation as a result of personal injury not stipulated as loss of earnings). The misunderstanding is that if one spouse earned the money used to purchase an item, it belongs to the purchasing spouse. Since the income used to purchase the item was earned during marriage, the purchased item is community property, and not the sole owner of the purchaser. This is why pension plans, 401k, stock options, and other types of savings is subject to 50/50 division in community property States, otherwise known as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). As the original A/B statement exemplifies, division of community property is not as easily divided as a simple A/B list. In many cases, the old adage “possession is 9/10ths of the law” applies, with the exception of a few specific items. The spouse that plans to leave the marriage and file for divorce is in a better position if they take with them those items they wish to maintain ownership.

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  8. its a shame so many marriages end in divorce people give up to easy these days

  9. Jack says:

    Divorce can be a long hard process.

  10. Joe says:

    Some interesting points here.

  11. Max says:

    I think the A/B list is a great idea.

  12. Jane says:

    Divorce should be the last resort.

  13. sam says:

    Sometimes 50/50 is not a fair share,sometimes one deserves more than the other.

  14. stewart says:

    Great post,you have given me some valuable information here.

  15. Paul says:

    Why cant the divorce system be simplified.

  16. Kim says:

    I could not agree more with this article.

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  25. Gave me a lot to think about.

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