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Tips for Dividing Art During Divorce

During divorce, one of the biggest arguments that can be had is over the artwork. Because of this, if you’re an art lover on the verge of filing for divorce, you might want to take some time to acquaint yourself with some legal and tax basics.

As Rough as Child Custody

“I’d put it in the same category as child-custody battles,” says Suzanne Landers, a family law attorney. She says that emotional attachments to are can often outweigh any financial considerations. In a lot of divorces, the decisions made regarding who gets what painting or sculpture can take longer than divvying up houses, cars, or even money.

Create an Inventory

According to Raoul Felder, a divorce attorney in New York City, divorcing couples need to first create a developed list that details all of the art that was bough during the marriage, and also prior to the marriage. Additionally, a list of the art sold  price of the sale; and art that hasn’t been sold should be made. The art that has been obtained prior to the marriage, or (depending on jurisdiction) after the couple has legally separated or filed for divorce is not considered to be marital property, and is considered to belong to the spouse that purchased it. Another thing to remember is that if a spouse agreed to buy a piece prior to the marriage, and that piece arrives after the wedding, it is also excluded from the list of marital assets. It’s best disclose all relevant documents and pieces of art. As family and art law practitioner, Valerie L. Patten, warns, if fraud is determined, “half or even 100% of any undisclosed and unallocated assets may be awarded to the other spouse.”

Bring in an Appraiser

“The love of art grows exponentially after the appraiser’s report comes in,” especially when the items grow in value, says lawyer Ike Vanden Eykel. A couple can either decide on one appraiser, or can each hire their own. It’s important to remember that appraisers can determine different amounts, and those amounts can be far apart. The couple should either agree to split the difference if there are widely conflicting appraisals, or decide to take the differences into account when negations are made. You can then take other assets as parts of the bargaining process – such as the house, vacation home, or car. As Mr. Vanden Eykel says, “You don’t want to leave things up to a judge to decide, because the court will only order that everything be sold.”


For advice on divorce, you need the expert law firm of Divorce Law LA. Schedule a consultation today.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Tips for Dividing Art in a Divorce or Death, September 21, 2014

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