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When artists divorce, artwork can be an asset

Some marriages aren't meant to last, and they end in divorce. Dividing your property can be one of the most difficult parts of your divorce, especially if you didn't intend for some items to become marital property. Things that you might want to divide include property like your house, bank account, cars, furniture and even artwork. What about artwork that is created by your spouse or yourself? Can you seek compensation for objects that could produce future revenue?

Technically, any artwork created during the marriage is actually marital property. That means that you or your spouse could ask to claim artwork that was created and intended to be sold or simply was used as decoration in the house during the asset division process. Copyright is also considered to be community property in a marriage. Although this may make you feel that you can lose your entire art collection or that your work is at risk, not everything is divided. Any art you created before your marriage or produced after you separated or filed for divorce is not considered to be marital property. Even payments that were agreed upon before the marriage, like commission payments, won't be divided in the divorce since they were not yet present in the bank account or in your possession.

If you're an artist, be sure that you develop an inventory of the work that you have created. Detail which pieces were made before you were married and which were made during your marriage. If you can, write down the price at which they were sold, and if you have pieces that have not sold, indicate this and the price that you would sell them for. You will need to tell the court where the pieces are during the divorce proceedings, because if you hide them you could be part of a future lawsuit for withholding assets.

Value has to be assigned to artwork, so you may want to talk to a professional appraiser or work with your attorneys to negotiate a fair price. A dealer would be a good source for pricing information since there's no secondary market for an artist's work. Since cases are typically one of a kind, appraisals can vary. If you and your spouse can agree on a single appraiser, this will help move the case along.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Artwork Gets Thrown into the Mix When Artists Divorce," Daniel Grant, Oct. 24, 2016

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