In Illinois, dividing your marital assets is a necessary part of the divorce process. Neither spouse gets to keep everything, and Illinois’s equitable distribution law requires that each spouse receive a “just proportion[]” of the marital estate based on a variety of different factors.

But, while giving up certain assets can be easy, giving up others can be extremely difficult. In fact, dealing with items that have sentimental value is often among the most emotionally-challenging aspects of going through a divorce.

5 Options for Dealing with Items that Have Sentimental Value During Your Divorce

When dealing with items that have sentimental value, divorcing spouses often will need to make difficult decisions. After a divorce, only one former spouse can have any particular item in his or her home. But, there are some creative options as well. When going through a divorce, pursuing these creative solutions can often help satisfy both spouses’ wants and needs while facilitating an efficient and amicable resolution.

So, how can you deal with photo albums, collections, keepsakes, and other items that have sentimental items during your divorce? Here are five potential options:

1. Making Copies of Photos and Children’s Artwork

Family photos and children’s artwork are items that often carry deep sentimental value. So, while they may not have monetary value for purposes of addressing the equitable distribution of a couple’s property, they can still play a central role in the divorce process.

One relatively easy solution for dealing with family photos is to make copies. For digital photos, you can either order prints or create a folder on your computer of which you and your spouse each get a copy. If you have older family photos that have been passed down through the generations, you can scan these to get them into electronic form. There are also companies that will do this for you.

When it comes to children’s artwork, making copies is usually one of the best solutions as well. Each spouse can keep a collection of their children’s artwork, and they can both keep a full digital catalog.

2. Prioritizing Certain Items or Collections Over Others

With certain items, making copies simply won’t be feasible. For example, if you and your spouse have a collection of artwork or items you’ve collected from your travels around the globe, you may have no choice but to decide who will keep each of these after your divorce. Likewise, if you have a vacation home, car, or other high-value asset that also has sentimental value, there may not be any way to split the proverbial baby.

In this scenario, the key to finding a way forward is prioritization. Each spouse should take the time to thoughtfully assess which items matter most. Then, during the divorce process, the spouses can compare their lists and determine where there is a need for reconciliation. While many items will have sentimental value for both spouses, oftentimes, spouses will have many varying priorities as well.

3. Gifting Items to Your Children

In certain circumstances, gifting items that have sentimental value to a couple’s children can prove to be a mutually-agreeable path forward. When neither spouse wants an item to be out of their life forever, handing the item down to their children can be a desirable solution. While this can have tax implications for high-net-worth families, taxes won’t be an issue in most scenarios. Of course, parents must avoid using their children as proxies during the divorce process; but, if the time is right, gifting assets with sentimental value to your children could be a good option.

4. Donating Artwork or Other Collections

Another option is to donate artwork or other collections to a museum or other non-profit organization. This will often prove to be a mutually-agreeable solution as well, and it can also offer significant tax advantages. When combined with the other tax planning aspects of the divorce process, donating items to a non-profit organization like a museum can serve the dual functions of minimizing the spouses’ tax liability while also allowing both spouses to feel good about how and where their collections will be maintained after their divorce.

5. Identifying Items that Qualify as “Separate Property”

When preparing for a divorce, it is also important not to overlook the fact that some items with sentimental value will likely qualify as one spouse’s “separate property.” While marital assets are subject to division during the divorce process, items that qualify as one spouse’s separate property are not.

The most common reason why an item will qualify as separate property is because one spouse owned the item prior to the date of marriage. For example, if you owned a collectible car, a piece of artwork, a collection of sports cards or jewelry, or any other asset before you got married, there is a good chance that this will be yours to keep after your divorce. Of course, your spouse may have separate assets as well, and identifying both spouses’ separate assets is an important step in the process of preparing for a divorce.

How To Get Started

Now that you have some ideas for how to handle items with sentimental value in your divorce, what should you do to get started? At this point, there are two main steps you will want to take in preparation for meeting with a divorce attorney:

  • Make a List of Your Marital and Separate Assets – Take some time to prepare a list of the assets you own. As you generate your list, make note of any assets that you think may qualify as your (or your spouse’s) separate property.
  • Start the Process of Prioritizing – Start thinking about which items matter to you the most. Once you’ve prioritized, then you can begin the process of thinking about how best to approach each item that has sentimental value in your divorce.

Discuss Your Divorce with Attorney Deanna J. Bowen in Gurnee, IL

If you would like to know more about how to handle items that have sentimental value during the divorce process, we invite you to get in touch. To schedule a free initial consultation with divorce attorney Deanna J. Bowen, please call 847-623-4002 or request an appointment online today.