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Dealing with artwork in a divorce

On Behalf of | Sep 24, 2021 | Property Division

There are very few material possessions in life that can have disputed value like a piece of artwork. Values might be embellished by outrageous claims of value when the truth is that the piece of art is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. The problem is that these possessions typically must be evaluated as part of the property division process in a Michigan divorce, which is an equitable distribution state. There are even more questions of whether paintings and other artwork examples are personal or marital property. There is also the question of increasing value as stated by professional art assayers. This can easily be a difficult evaluation in a Michigan divorce, but it is one that must be considered in property division.

Personal or marital property?

The first step in evaluating art in a divorce mediation is determining whether one spouse possessed it before the marriage became effective. Additionally, for a couple who lived together for a significant period prior to actually marrying, the question may include when the actual marriage began. Even when it is personal property, artwork can accrue more value as time goes on. If it was purchased, was it bought at market value? Any increase in value can be determined as marital property as well. The answers are rarely easy.

Valuation determination

Once the marital property question is answered, the next step will be determining the actual current value. At the very least, the increase in value can be assigned as marital property and a part of the final asset total when divorce attorneys finalize a decree agreement. One method of answering the question is by retaining an artwork valuation expert who can place a discreet dollar amount on any artwork. Even one piece of art can complicate a settlement, but having multiple pieces makes the process even more convoluted for collectors.

These are just a few considerations that Michigan courts as well as spouses’ attorneys will have when a divorce is further complicated by assets of contestable value. If one spouse is an art dealer, property division can become even more exacerbated, so it’s important to work carefully through negotiations.