Saturday, 6 November 2010


This week a large part of my spare time has been spent making inventories of house contents for a property that I am involved in the letting of. It’s a tedious task, especially when you get down to the minutiae of the cutlery and lamp shades; it is however a job that many separating couples have to undertake before determining a split of their possessions. However making a list is only the beginning; next, one has to agree the division. During my time as a family lawyer, I have come across various bizarre proposals for the division of chattels including the notorious physical and equal division of everything, with the use of a saw of course. It’s not to be recommended and anyone going down that route can find themselves severely penalised when it comes to dividing the proceeds from the house sale or cash at the bank.

Less commonly, however, I recall the couple who once upon a time agreed that one would have the contents upstairs and the other those from downstairs. There was a certain logic to this in that both were surveyors and agreed that the floor areas up and down were identical. Their solution was, however flawed when they couldn’t actually agree on who would have which floor.

Then once upon a time there was the occasion when a Judge suggested to my client that she prepare two lists of contents, one for each of them. One might have expected the client to unduly weight one list in her favour but the Judge stalled this by indicating that the each list should be put in a separate unmarked envelope and then drawn as if from a bran tub with neither husband nor wife knowing which list they would get!

More frequently there is the regular threat by the court that if the couple can’t agree then everything must be sold and the proceeds divided between them. With second-hand goods selling for a fraction of new, that has to be an incentive for commonsense to prevail. After all chattels are just that, only things.

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