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Artwork: the oft-ignored casualty of divorce

by | Mar 24, 2016 | Property And Asset Division

You might think that the biggest fights a divorcing couple would have, aside from custody battles, would be over houses or money or even cars. Surprisingly, that is not usually the case. Divorcing couples, especially those of high net worth, tend to have the biggest and longest fights over artwork.

These fights happen for a variety of reasons. A parent gifts a particularly beautiful sculpture to the couple as an anniversary gift. At the time of the divorce, both parties lay claim to it, one for its monetary value and the other for sentimental reasons. Sometimes the fight is strictly monetary. One spouse, for example, may suddenly become extremely attached a print only after learning its value. One side of a divorcing couple may also choose to use a valued (whether for sentimental or monetary reasons) as a bargaining chip.

Sometimes there is no discussion to be had. If for example, you owned the art before getting married, you get to keep it in the divorce. Period. Sometimes couples decide to bring in an appraiser to ensure that the property is being divided up fairly. Unfortunately, appraisers may disagree over the value of a piece of art. This can lead to the whole matter being placed before a judge who may either award the art to one spouse or insist the piece be sold and the money divided up in accordance with the property division laws of the state in question.

When you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse start arguing over the artwork, it’s usually time to bring in the professionals. A qualified divorce attorney will be familiar with the property division laws in your state and may help you reach a valuation and agreement acceptable to both parties. Better yet, a lawyer may be able to help you and your ex reach this agreeable compromise without ever needing to tell it to the judge.