A couple were criticised by the judge in the High Court for spending a disproportionate amount of money on legal costs – all to argue over the contents of their home.
The couple, who had a combined wealth of around £29 million had reached agreement out of court regarding the majority of issues. However, despite agreeing that the husband would keep the family home, the wife insisted the contents of the property, particularly the curtains, should be retained by her. The court ruled that the curtains should be retained by the husband but in the event the property was sold with the curtains, the money for the curtains should be split with the wife.
The couple were told that the dispute was utterly ridiculous, having spent £1 million on arguing this point.
Although this is not the average case, it raises the question of how far you should go when discussing the contents of the family home.
Usually, your contents will be roughly split in to three categories; personal belongings such as clothes and paperwork, furniture and high value or sentimental items, such as artwork or wedding gifts.
There is a presumption that each individual will keep their own personal belongings and this is rarely disputed. However, there is no strict rule on the division of furniture and other contents. Ideally, parties can discuss this between them and agree a division of items. Sometimes this takes place immediately on separation, especially if you decide to move into separate homes straight away. The division may also be influenced by each parties future housing plans, or the logistics of transporting items out of the property.
It is inevitably impossible to divide one household into two and there is a risk that this can lead to protracted discussions. If you do not feel able to discuss the division of items between you, and correspond through solicitors, you should be mindful that the cost of doing so does not exceed the value of the items.
If you have items that have a high value, such as antiques or artwork, it may not be disproportionate to discuss these in proceedings. In these cases the court may examine the origin of the item and consider it alongside other larger assets of a case such as property and pensions.
Ultimately, if you are unable to reach agreement between you, the court can make a decision for you. However you should be aware that the court will be reluctant to get involved in smaller details such as these and this may result in criticisms from the court, as in the case above. The courts are likely to take a pragmatic but blunt view and may order that all items in dispute should be sold and the proceeds divided between you.
If you are going through a divorce or separation and would like further advice regarding this, or any other aspect then please contact one of the Family team for more advice.
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