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Why dividing artwork in divorce can be a complicated endeavor

As your and your spouse's incomes grew, you began collecting more increasingly valuable works of art. This art now adorns virtually every room in your home. Now that you're considering divorcing, it's likely to be one of the biggest areas of contention as you divide your property.

Dividing artwork (as well as antiques and collectibles) is different than dividing up furniture, sports equipment and many other assets. In addition to monetary value, works of art can have a great deal of sentimental value to one or both spouses.

They can also be used as weapons. Some spouses who constantly mocked their partner's taste in art suddenly want as many of those pieces as they can get when the marriage ends with the intention of selling them or just putting them in storage so that their ex can no longer enjoy them.

Experts agree that it's wise to do an inventory of your artwork, including whether it was purchased before or after your marriage. If you've got evidence, like receipts, that you purchased some pieces before you were married, you'll likely have a good chance of keeping them. Anything purchased afterward could be considered a marital asset. If all of your pieces of art are insured, you have a good starting point for your inventory.

If the two of you will be dividing the artwork, you will need to have it appraised if it hasn't been recently. This can help you decide what other asset you might want to "trade" a piece for as you work out your property division agreement.

Your attorney can help you work to keep the pieces of art you most treasure and get a fair deal as you and your spouse divide all your assets. They'll likely advise you that if you decide to marry again, you should include whatever artwork you bring in to the next marriage in a prenuptial agreement so that there's no question about to whom it belongs.

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