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Brushing up on the basics: Dividing artwork in a divorce

It’s not uncommon for a couple to develop a shared interest or hobby during the course of their marriage. For instance, some couples may take up golfing or bicycling, while others might indulge their mutual love of photography or gardening. Still others, however, might partake in considerably more unconventional pastimes such as collecting artwork.

Interestingly enough, experts indicate that those couples who have built an art collection over the years may find their various masterpieces becoming a major source of contention in a divorce.

That’s because many people form emotional attachments to the paintings, sculptures and other pieces that have adorned their homes for years and want nothing more than to retain possession of them post-divorce.

Of course, this is not an altogether easy proposition given that California is what is known as a community property state. This essentially means that any property (artwork included) acquired prior to the marriage is not considered marital property and not subject to division. However, any property acquired during the course of the marriage is considered marital property subject to division on a 50-50 basis.

Where problems can arise in the context of artwork, say experts, is that divorce litigation might result in a judge simply ordering the couple to sell the artwork and split the profits accordingly, something neither spouse likely wants to see happen.

Experts indicate that a divorcing couple with a not insubstantial collection of artwork may want to consider retaining their own counsel, and entering into negotiations about dividing these and other assets.

To that end, experts advise a divorcing couple to first consider creating a comprehensive inventory of any and all artwork gathered during the marriage. Next, they suggest each spouse either hire their own appraiser or that they hire a mutually acceptable appraiser who can provide them with values that will help guide the equitable distribution of assets.

If you would like to learn more about complex property division, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can answer your questions, outline your options and protect your rights.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Tips for dividing art in a divorce or death,” Daniel Grant, Sept. 21, 2014