Tupperware, pets, frequent flyer points, promotional tents and even cushions are some of the many hotly disputed items in property settlements, according to a leading specialist family law firm. Separating couples can become so worn down by negotiations that they are willing to let outcomes reached at mediations simply ‘fall over’, rather than giving in to their ex-partner. Arguments over small items are not because one party doesn’t want the other spouse to ‘win’ but because they have reached a point where they feel like they cannot ‘give in’ to their partner any further. It comes down to one partner needing to feel at peace with the deal, rather than seeing to it that their spouse does not achieve a good deal.
“In essence, nobody wants what I call ‘buyer’s remorse’ about their property settlement deal, and they need to be able to feel that they can live with it.
Our advice to separating couples who get fixated on keeping a particular item, is that they focus on the alternative (i.e. not resolving the dispute) and what that will mean in terms of time and cost – both financial and emotional. This often helps to crystalize the real ‘value’ of retention of the items in question, and allows for a possible shift in thinking as to what will make that couple happier – keeping the item, or going home that night with a concluded deal. When spouses feel like that, it is important to recognise it, and pause. Tell your lawyer how you are feeling. Talking things through often helps rationalise the value of a particular item against other benefits – is it really vital to retain the item which has become a ‘deal breaker’, or it is better to conclude the case, walk away and move on?
Sometimes there will be instances where one spouse insists on retaining a particular item, such as a chattel of sentimental value, and lawyers can press for that outcome. But in most situations where the item can be replaced for a fraction of a value of the ‘lost opportunity’ cost of the deal falling over, talking things through with your lawyer may help resolve the outcome, without feelings of resentment.