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Why dividing artwork in a divorce requires patience, cooperation

When couples decide to divorce, the first questions that go through their head as they relate to property division are often “who gets the house?” or “who gets the car?”

However, for those couples who have invested significant time, money and energy into building an art collection, the first questions that go through their head as they relate to property division are often “who gets the sculpture in the living room?” or “who gets the landscape painting in the dining room?”

While this may seem hard to believe, the reality is that many couples work very hard to accumulate artwork that speaks to them and/or serves as a showcase for their home.

Indeed, the effort put into acquiring these pieces and the enjoyment they produce thereafter is often so great that people are reluctant to part with it in a divorce. As you might imagine, however, this can be problematic as it creates the potential for conflict and hard feelings.

Potentially complicating matters further is the fact that Washington is a community property state, meaning property acquired during the course of the marriage is split 50-50 in terms of ownership interest. This, of course, can be difficult where artwork is concerned, as neither spouse may be willing to sell the artwork and split the proceeds, wanting instead to keep it for themselves.

Legal experts indicate that in these situations, divorcing spouses should perhaps first consider creating a comprehensive list outlining all of the artwork acquired during the course of their marriage and producing all relevant paperwork.

If they can agree to such a list, experts say, the next logical step would be to hire an appraiser (or have each spouse hire their own) to give them an idea of the monetary value of all the listed artwork. From there, the spouses can negotiate, dividing the artwork equally by value or compensating for differing values with other assets (jewelry, cars, money, etc.).

Experts indicate that sticking to a process whereby negotiation remains an option is always preferable to pursuing the matter in divorce court, as there is a very good chance the presiding judge will simply order all the artwork to be sold.

If you would like to learn more about high-asset divorce or property division, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Tips for dividing art in a divorce or death,” Daniel Grant, Sept. 21, 2014