The “Odd” Problem About Personal Property in Divorce

by | Mar 14, 2014 | Property Issues, Uncategorized

The “Odd” Problem About Personal Property in Divorce

Interior Decorating and The Rule of Three

Written by: Stefano Ceroni

Has anyone ever heard of the “Rule of Three” when it comes to interior decorating?

Of course not…me neither! In fact, who’s heard of any rules regarding home décor, other than let’s say, Martha Stewart?

The truth is, if you’re anything like me, you buy things you need or like and then you arrange them around your house in a way that hopefully makes sense, without giving any consideration to decorating rules, home and garden tips or proper Feng Shui.

(I mean what is Feng Shui anyway? And, how come nobody can ever give me a concrete example of what it actually looks like?)

Anyway, most of us (I’m assuming), decorate our houses with practicality being the foremost influence when it comes to design.


For example…

I have three dogs; so, as a general rule, I try not to put anything that is too expensive near ground level, unless of course, I really like the aesthetic of teeth and chew marks in my valuables. My wife and I also try to avoid carpeting, as we both have a tendency for spillage, especially after we finish-off a bottle of wine before we even start cooking dinner.

Other than that, I try to just place things where they seem to make sense.

You know…alarm clock on night stand, coasters on coffee table, and books in the bookshelf.

Simple, right?

Well, apparently, I might not be decorating with all the available information I need.

Ergo…the “Rule of Three”

In general, the “Rule of Three” stems from the idea that details and objects that are arranged in odd number pairings, as opposed to even number pairings, are more visibly appealing to the human psyche.

Now, before you freak out, do me a favor and take a look around your home.


Well, although most of us may never have heard of the “Rule of Three”, in general, it is something that most of us follow, even if we do it subconsciously.

The reason?

Your guess is as good as mine, but apparently, we all have a little bit of Martha Stewart in us that tells us to purchase and organize things in odd number increments, whether we realize it or not.

Don’t believe me?

Well, I wouldn’t have either…until, of course, I began practicing divorce law.

Ways Parties Divide Personal Property in Divorce

You see, when parties split, they are forced to divide up all of their personal property in divorce…

Assets and debts, bank accounts and retirement plans, vehicles and frequent flyer miles, and yes…even the home furnishings.

How do they do this?

Well, the rules suggest that when parties can’t agree on how to divide their personal property belongings (including their home décor items) they are left with utilizing one of the following two options:


(1) The parties make a list of all the tangible personal property they own and alternately select items from the list until all the property is divided or

(2) One of the parties makes two lists of the tangible personal property items, both equal in value, and then the other party selects which list of items they would like to be awarded.

From a practice standpoint, however, these two options are rarely ever used because most parties have no problem agreeing on how to divide about 95% of their personal property. So, with only a handful of items left to be divided, the listing method really doesn’t work because it is often difficult to balance/equalize values when you’re dealing with only a small number of items.

Why is this such a prolific problem?

You got it! It’s because everyone is following that darn “Rule of Three”!

I swear, people are having more and more difficulty agreeing on how to divide their personal property because everyone seems to own an odd number of highly desirable personal property possesions.

It’s always…three flat screen t.v.’s, one nice couch, one master bedroom set, three sets of dishes, five family photo albums, one surround sound system, three DVD players, one kitchen table, three beds, one leather recliner and, of course, only one grill. Not to mention, all the odd number of over-priced Pottery Barn knick-knacks that had been arranged in sets of three.

Honestly, if you think your relationship is headed for divorce, please do your divorce attorney a favor and start evening-out your personal property items.

Hey, in my opinion, having 4 televisions never hurt anybody, especially come football season.

Trust me, in the long run, the cost of purchasing these items will not compare with the attorney’s fees that you will likely spend fighting over the odd numbered items.

Anyway, at this point, I’m sure you’re all dying to know the answer to this question:

What happens if you’re going through a divorce and you, too, were subconsciously following the “Rule of Three”?

Well, you’re not going to like my answer, but I guess that’s the point.

If you find yourself fighting with your spouse about the extra t.v. or living room sectional, chances are, one of you is just going to have to compromise and let the other person have it.

Sorry, that’s my answer!


Because if you don’t, your judge is not going to listen to you whine about why you feel you deserve the only antique breakfront. Instead, they are simply going to order that the item of dispute be sold, with the parties dividing the proceeds equally.

Oh…and, if you think you would be o.k. with this type of solution, before you refuse to compromise, do yourself a favor a check on Craigslist what a used bed or couch is selling for.  Trust me; you’ll be lucky to get 10% of your investment back.

So, if this happens to you, just remember you only have yourself to blame…

Oh, and Martha Stewart of course.

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