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When you and your spouse prepare to divide your personal property during your Massachusetts divorce, the challenge to determine who gets what may become more objective. You may be willing to give up the artwork as long as you get to keep all the books, or your spouse may have a favorite collection but does not care if you take the furniture.

When these items have significant value, simply dividing them based on who wants them may result in an unfair property division. The solution may be to hire a professional appraiser to determine the actual value of the items.

According to National Appraisal Consultants, L.L.C., a professional appraiser should have recent training in the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. He or she should also have specific product knowledge regarding the items you need appraised.

You may want an appraiser to provide expert testimony in court regarding the value of your personal property, and many are willing to do this. However, testifying as to the value of an item does not mean that the appraiser is on your side or your spouse’s. Ethical standards dictate that a professional should be impartial.

Before you hire an appraiser, you and your spouse should agree to the inventory that you are having appraised. You do not want to discover that your spouse has omitted some items because he or she believes they are separate rather than marital property. Unless an item is a gift or inheritance, or something your spouse owned before the marriage, it is probably marital property. Even if it was an inheritance, if marital funds were used for upkeep or restoration of the item, it may now be marital property.

It is likely that the appraiser will provide you with a fair market value, in which the dollar amount is determined based on what comparable items are currently selling for on the appropriate market. You should receive a report documenting the process to provide to the court rather than a list of items with dollar amounts and no justification.

This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.