Property Division and Art Ownership: Dividing Art Collections During Divorce

Dividing Art Collections During Divorce

While art collecting isn’t a hobby practiced in all homes, marriage dissolution can result in heated property disputes, particularly over highly valued collections. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, attempts to divvy up art can lead to brutal arguments over property division. Indeed,

“of all the fights that can erupt during divorce proceedings . . . some of the biggest take place over artwork.”

One attorney with experience dividing high dollar estates said she’d place property division and artwork in the “same category as child-custody battles,” emphasizing the emotional attachments that divorcing spouses often have to these pieces. Couples tend to be so attached to their collections, in fact, that their emotional considerations can outweigh financial ones. In many divorce cases where spouses have large art collections including expensive paintings and sculptures, it will take a lot longer to decide who gets the art than to decide who gets real estate, automobiles, and stocks.

How can you make sure that paintings, sculptures, and other works of art to which you’re emotionally attached can be divided equitably and without too much distress on either side? The Wall Street Journal makes some recommendations for ensuring that your invaluable assets:

Make an inventory of your art: when you know you’re about to go through a divorce, it’s important to make a truthful and detailed list of your art. You’ll want to specify which pieces were acquired before the marriage and which pieces were purchased during the marriage. If you’ve sold any art during the marriage, you should add it to the list and indicate the price of sale. In most cases, art that you purchased before your marriage won’t be considered marital property. Even if you purchased a painting before your marriage that arrived at your home after you were married, it typically will be listed as nonmarital property. However, in some cases, art purchased when you were single but sold during your marriage may be considered marital property.

Hire an appraiser for your collection: it’s important to know how much your artwork is worth. Whether you want to hire your own appraiser or agree on an appraiser with your spouse. Keep in mind that the situation can get complicated when appraisers have widely varying numbers—a situation that often arises when it comes to paintings and sculptures.

It’s important to keep in mind that you cannot hide any property when you’re going through a divorce. If you fail to disclose certain assets, you could face serious repercussions.

Art as Community Property in Texas

In Texas, you should remember that property division will leave you and your spouse with equal portions of your assets (and debts). Texas is a community property state, which means that all the assets you’ve acquired during your marriage will be split evenly. However, community property rules don’t apply to nonmarital assets, which are generally those you obtained before your marriage. However, property division can be extremely complicated, and it’s important to have experienced legal counsel on your side.

If you’re in the process of divorce and have questions about property division or other family law matters, contact us so our attorneys can assist you.