As divorcing parents start to work out their property division agreement, they sometimes ask their attorneys how they’re supposed to divide their child’s belongings. The simple answer is that they aren’t.
Their possessions are theirs, regardless of which of you paid for them, gifted them or was with them when they picked them out. Dividing your child’s possessions into yours and your co-parent’s may seem fair to you, but it’s not fair to your child. No matter how much it may bother you to see your child wearing a coat your co-parent bought them or playing with a toy they brought them back from a business trip, that’s not your child’s problem.
If you’re sharing custody of your child, then both of your homes are their homes. For the most part, they should be able to have their belongings where they want them at any given time.
An important exception might be if your co-parent bought them something to which you strongly object – like a violent video game or a toy gun. You have the right to make the rules for your home, and they’re not always going to be consistent with your co-parent’s rules.
Obviously, they can’t (and shouldn’t) be moving all of their stuff back and forth as they transition between your and your co-parent’s home. You’ll likely need to have some things in both homes, like laptops, clothes, some games and books and basic necessities like toiletries and perhaps medications.
The same is true for gifts in the future
It’s important to hold onto this principle that your child’s belongings are theirs to control moving forward. For example, they should be able to keep birthday, Christmas and other presents wherever they choose. You shouldn’t put conditions on a gift that require a child only to use it in your home or when they’re with you.
Parents often put a provision in their parenting plan basically stating in simple language what we’ve discussed here in terms you can both agree to. Having sound legal guidance can help you work through this and other issues and craft a plan with the best interests of your child at its core.