Bench & Bar of Minnesota is the official publication of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

Personal Property Disputes

Dissolution trials at times bog down as obstreperous parties argue over the distribution of inexpensive or minor items of personal property. Every judge has their own procedure for dealing with disputes over “personal property.” However, for those who would prefer not to spend trial time taking testimony on awarding items such as used TVs, furniture, stereos, toasters, yard equipment, etc. the following “auction procedure” is one proven method for resolving this issue prior to trial.  Judges can implement this procedure by adding the following language to their pretrial order:

Disputes Involving Personal Property

If not already done, the parties shall meet within 30 days of the date of this Order to discuss allocation of the parties’ items of personal property.  The parties shall distribute the items between themselves by agreement.  If the parties disagree about the distribution of certain items, they shall prepare a master list of those items and submit that list to the Court no later than two weeks prior to trial.  Each party shall submit separately to the Court a sealed bid no later than one week prior to trial.  The bid shall identify each disputed item and assign each a dollar amount.  The party submitting the highest bid for a particular item shall be awarded exclusive possession and use of that item.  The party making the highest total bid amount shall pay the other party a cash amount equal to one-half the difference between the total amounts bid by each party.

Hon. Alan F. Pendleton

10th Judicial District, Anoka


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