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Artists and their artwork while going through divorce

All property division cases are different. Marital property acquired early in a marriage has a different significance than property obtained later on. More importantly, we sometimes wrongly take for granted that certain type of property is not subject to property division conducted throughout a divorce. This includes artwork that one spouse or the other creates.

Artists like to think of the artwork as their own (and not marital property) – even when created during the course of a marriage. Remember that artists make a living off of their work, and the artwork they create is often extremely valuable. Sometimes the revenues come from copyright ownership or from licensing the artwork. In any event, who is entitled to the artwork and the revenue from the artwork often is an issue of contention during a divorce proceeding.

Courts tend to view artwork created during the marriage as marital property. There are distinctions, however, when creation of the artwork took place before the marriage or, in certain jurisdictions, creation followed a separation or divorce filing.

To protect oneself, an artist should create an inventory of all the artwork they’ve created in their possession. They should note on this inventory when creation of the artwork took place thus documenting whether creation was before the marriage, during the marriage, or after the marriage. Courts will not look favorably upon failure to disclose artwork in the artist’s possession. An unfavorable ruling by the court could mean the artwork will end up in possession of the other spouse.

It’s wise to speak to experienced family law attorneys knowledgeable about property division laws in your state regarding all property division matters. Misunderstandings may result in you losing possession to that which you value most.

Source: Huffington Post, “For Artists, Divorce Means Splitting Up the (Art) Assets,” Daniel Grant, March 3, 2015