How to Divide Art in a Divorce

When a couple in Michigan decides to file for divorce, dealing with the division of marital property can be difficult no matter what the circumstances might be. However, in high-asset divorces in which the parties were avid art collectors, the prospect of the distribution of marital property can be even more anxiety-inducing and frustrating. How can you ensure that your art is properly valued by the court? What if your spouse contends that a particular painting or sculpture is actually separate property and thus is not subject to division? Or, what if you do not want to split up certain pieces in the collection? While not all divorcing parties have to deal with the unique issues involved in dividing an art collection, for those who do, this can be of the utmost importance.

An article in The Wall Street Journal discusses tips for dividing art in a contentious and high-asset divorce. We will give you some pointers from that article as you think about your divorce in Michigan and how it will affect your art collection.

Create a Detailed Inventory

The first and most important thing you need to do when you are thinking about filing for divorce-or if you have already filed-is to make an inventory of your art collection. The inventory should be as detailed as possible, providing all information you have on each piece, including the purchase price, where you bought it or acquired it, when you acquired it, and any information about its valuation history or provenance.

The information about when you acquired it will be extremely important for ascertaining whether the particular piece should be classified as marital property or separate property. For example, if you bought it before you were married, it is likely to be classified as separate property and not subject to division. If you inherited it during the marriage, it also may be classified as separate property depending upon the circumstances. Providing additional information about the purchase price and provenance can help to value the object in your divorce.

Keeping a detailed inventory can also prevent the other party from trying to hide artworks or from failing to disclose information about marital property.

Hiring an Appraiser to Help

When you have a substantial art collection, you certainly do not want to leave it up to the court to come up with a fair market value for each object. Given that the art market fluctuates, a piece you purchased even five years ago could have increased significantly in value. Likewise, a piece could have declined in value from when you purchased it.

You and your spouse may agree to have a single appraiser, or you may want to hire your own appraisers. It is important to note that appraisers can give very different appraisals for an object. In those cases, parties may "split the difference between the two conflicting appraisals or take the differences into account when negotiating which partner gets which piece," according to the article.

Contact a Divorce Lawyer in Michigan

Do you need assistance with a high-asset divorce involving an extensive art collection? An experienced Michigan high-asset divorce attorney can help with your case. Contact the Law Offices of Michael A. Robbins to learn more about the services we provide.