Chattels and things

Posted on: June 19th, 2018

What are ‘chattels’?

‘Chattels’ is the rather old fashioned term used to describe what you and I might call ‘personal possessions’. In the context of family law, these are items most often fought over and include a variety of things such as cars, furniture, antiques, works of art and perhaps surprisingly, dogs, cats and family pets.

What to do if you cannot reach agreement over the division of your belongings?

Often in the midst of a relationship breakdown, emotions run high and it can be difficult to part with cherished, sentimental and sometimes valuable possessions you have accumulated over the course of many years. So it might be useful to follow our top tips.

  • When you separate either make a detailed list of your personal items or you may find it easier (and much quicker) to take lots of pictures before you leave the home as it is quite easy to forget the smaller items. This can help you when negotiating with your ex.
  • When deciding upon who should keep the family car, you will need to consider if you have finance secured on it and whether you are able to pay for it. It might be better to sell and split the money for that clean slate. Do you actually need a car depending on your travel and work commitments?
  • Consider what furniture you will need, including any furniture for the children if you are moving to a new property.
  • If you own valuable items, such as antiques or works of art, you might need to get a formal valuation. Although don’t hurry to do this as you should only do this if you cannot reach an agreement with your ex as the cost of valuation can sometimes outweigh the value of the item in dispute.
  • You should keep hold of all receipts for significant purchases as it might be necessary to prove who paid what.
  • If you want the family pet to live with you then you will need to weigh up if you have enough time to commit to ‘Fiddo’ or ‘Felix’.

Where it is not possible to reach agreement with your ex we will give you pragmatic and clear advice. The ultimate aim is to reach a workable solution through sensible negotiations, but where this is not possible, there are other options available including mediation, collaborative law and round table meetings. If other options do not work out the last resort is to ask the court to decide who should have what.

If court is the only option, the judge will consider what you each need and decide who should get what. If you both need similar items (to set up two new houses, for example) the judge will probably award alternate items to you using a schedule of contents. If this is not suitable (if the items are valuable) the judge may expect you to sell them and split the money.

If you would like further guidance or have any questions, please contact Marie Stock or one of our family law specialists.