For couples going through a Santa Clara divorce, an art collection can be one of the most difficult assets to divide. Fine art can have both sentimental and financial value, and deciding who gets what piece can exacerbate the already tense process of ending a marriage.
As soon as you make the decision to divorce, you’ll need to create a detailed inventory list for your art collection. Your inventory list should include full descriptions of the art purchased before the marriage, art purchased during the marriage, and any art that was sold during the marriage. You should also take photos of any pieces currently in your collection.
Art is considered separate property if it was purchased before the marriage or received as a gift to just one person. If it was purchased during the marriage, it is protected by California’s community property laws regardless of who first suggested the purchase. The proceeds from art sold during the marriage would also fall under California’s community property laws.
If your collection includes several pieces, hiring an appraiser will be necessary. Appraisers don’t always agree on the value of a piece, however. This can create conflict if you and your spouse insist on hiring two separate appraisers. You may need to split the difference when assigning a dollar value to each item.
When dividing the collection, you’ll need to make sure you and your spouse receive assets of comparable value. If you’re a passionate collector and he or she is not, you may be able to trade your interest in the marital home, vehicles, furniture, or other assets in exchange for a larger portion of the art collection. If you have children together, you could negotiate an arrangement that keeps particularly meaningful items set aside for them to enjoy.
Although working things out between the two of you can be complicated, this is preferable to letting a judge decide the fate of a treasured art collection. If a judge does need to be involved, it’s likely that he or she might order you to sell the entire collection and split the proceeds down the middle.
If you have questions about the distribution of art and other assets during a California divorce, please contact a qualified San Jose divorce attorney.