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Insights on psychological elements at play in property division

On Behalf of | Aug 25, 2023 | Divorce, Property Division |

In the wake of divorce, dividing the significant assets you acquired and shared during your marriage may make for a psychologically challenging process. If you have substantial marital wealth and cannot resolve amicably, your case may go to court.

Per Connecticut’s equitable distribution rule, property division does not automatically equate to a 50/50 split. The judge often observes broad discretion with an extensive list of relevant factors – length of your marriage, the reason for your divorce, and both your current and future earning capacity – to determine who gets what.

But unquantifiable factors may come into the mix, influencing the values of each asset under consideration.

Perceived ownership and sentimental value

An American Psychological Association publication provides a unique perspective on how specific psychological aspects may impact property division negotiations and settlements.

Aside from pointing out that women tend to be more reluctant to take risks than men, the study also focuses on the “endowment effect.” It is a behavioral principle related to perceived ownership, which means that you value or fight to acquire something more if you own it.

Such a sense of ownership increases if the property is something you can feel or touch. For example, you may feel greater loss if your spouse gets your marital house and car than if the judge grants them intangible items, like stocks.

Further, sentimental value may also affect your decision-making. Your inflated emotional attachment to an antique, a family heirloom or your pet may cloud your judgment. You may hold on to them more than they are worth. They may have little monetary value, which your spouse may use to their advantage.

It will be wise to consult your legal representative and an appraiser to determine the fair market values of every item on your list. By doing so, you can arrive at a sound decision.

Aim for fair values

The inherent nature of divorce and property division involves your and your spouse’s psychological disposition. While you may choose to listen to your emotional compass, it will also serve you good to follow your counsel’s approach as they guide you toward fair outcomes.