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How does psychological value affect property division?

We might think that in Ohio divorces, spouses will always fight to retain assets that are the most valuable. However, this is not always the case. According to the American Psychological Association, research that has examined property division and divorce has noted the influence of the “endowment effect.” This concept states that a person will be more likely to place value on an object when the person owns it. However, how strongly that person feels that ownership will affect how much value he or she places on that object.

For example, people may feel a sense of perceived ownership. With perceived ownership, someone can increase the value of a piece of property if that person has contact with it. Merely touching a material object can make a person place additional value on it. Also, someone may fantasize about owning an asset. All of these feelings may instill a sense of ownership even if the person does not legally possess it, which leads them to value the asset more.

Conversely, while some items may be owned legally by a person, the individual may feel a lesser sense of ownership towards them. If an item is not concrete, if it does not have a physical presence before a person, that item will possess lower perceived ownership. For example, a person might not feel much loss by giving up a stock or a financial account than he or she would if a car or a piece of jewelry was taken away. This can happen even if the stocks were worth more than the material item.

The end result is that you have scenarios where some divorcing spouses want pieces of property or assets that possess less monetary value than other marital items, yet hold greater psychological value to that individual. These kinds of arguments can affect negotiations between the two divorcing spouses when it comes time to divide up marital assets. An item that a spouse has had more contact with might be viewed as more personally valuable to that person, and the spouse may be willing to give up financial assets to retain it.

This article is intended to educate readers of psychological value of marital property, and is not to be taken as legal advice.

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