Nelson | Kirkman Lawyers Formerly Paul J Nelson and Associates
Providing divorce and family law representation to Newport Beach and the surrounding area

Dividing art in a complex divorce

Between the two of you, you've collected thousands of dollars of artwork. Maybe one of you has made art yourself, and today, while faced with divorce, you need to know how to divide those assets.

In terms of property division at divorce, art is an asset, and as such, it falls under the same rules as other kinds of community or separate property. If you had the asset before your marriage, it may be treated as separate property. If you collected the art during your marriage, it's likely categorized as community property, the value of which is subject to division in a California divorce.

Valuation matters

One thing to remember is that art can vary a great deal in its value, depending on who is doing the appraising. A fair appraisal can make a difference in your divorce. For works of art, it's a good idea to have not only one valuation, but several, so you can find common ground for how much a piece of art is worth.

What about personal artwork?

Artists sometimes assume that their personal works remain their own since they were the people who created the works. The truth in a divorce is that anything of value can be divided between the spouses if the property is categorized as community property. For example, if your art produced income during your marriage, the art may be considered community property. The same could be said for intellectual property. That means it's possible that your spouse will try to negotiate to keep some of that property or at least divide its value between the two of you.

All of these considerations underscore the importance of determining what is community property and what is separate property.

Can unfinished artwork be valued for division?

Yes. Unfinished or unsold works still need to have a value placed on them. Sometimes, agreements are made to receive a portion of the sale price of the artwork in the future. Other times, the artist retains the rights to the artwork in exchange for payment of a debt or giving up something else the other party wants.

These are a few things to think about if you have artwork you need to divide for your divorce. Each situation is different, and getting an accurate asset valuation is a step in the right direction.

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