How does psychology affect division of property during a divorce?

Joint ownership of property, often considered a boon to California couples when they marry, can become a burden to a couple if they decide to divorce. If you and your spouse have decided to dissolve your marriage, the court will attempt to divide your common property as fairly as possible. According to the American Psychological Association, however, the division process can be difficult not only because of the emotional aspect of divorce but because couples often do not keep records of which property belongs to which partner.

Further complicating the matter is the fact that, from a psychological point of view, you may feel or perceive ownership over property that does not legally belong to you. Research suggests that you will tend to feel more ownership over an object that you hold, touch or use, regardless of who originally paid for it or who owns it in the eyes of the law. For example, if your spouse owned a tool set prior to your marriage but you used it more often than your spouse for maintenance of your home or automobile during your marriage, you may feel more ownership over the tool set, and therefore value it more, than your spouse does. Conversely, you may feel less ownership over property that is largely intangible, such as a retirement account or a stock portfolio. Therefore, even though your joint retirement account may be worth more money than your spouse’s tool set, you may value it less because you feel less ownership over it.

Psychological research also suggests that, when it comes to the division of property during a divorce, men and women tend to approach the negotiations differently. Men more often focus on task-specific goals, while women tend to focus on interpersonal goals. This means that women are usually more willing than men to forgo monetary benefits in order to maintain a friendly relationship with their former spouses.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

Share article on: