The role of artwork in a divorce property division

Massachusetts residents who are seeking a divorce may be interested in some information on how artwork is treated at the end of a marriage. Depending on when it was created, the pieces may be up for grabs when marital property is divided.

When a couple makes the decision to divorce, they need to go through the property division process and divide their existing marital assets. When one of the spouses is an artist, they may be unclear about what to do with their artwork. An artist often believes that their works belong to them, because they created the pieces. In the eyes of the law, however, the artwork itself is simply another piece of property owned by the couple. Because of this, the artwork is subject to the same equitable division principles as the rest of the former couple’s assets.

Artwork presents complex property division issues due to its often-subjective nature. A monetary value needs to be assigned to each piece by an appraiser or gallery owner. In addition, any licensing agreements for the artwork created by one of the parties needs to be included as property and revenue that belongs to the marriage. If artwork was created prior to the marriage, though, it will most likely not be part of this marital property division.

Failure to properly account for the value of this artwork could open the creator up to allegations of fraud and could end up losing them all of that property. To avoid this, legal counsel may be useful during the divorce process. An attorney can assist in the valuation of the marital property, whether artwork, business assets or other property, and negotiate a fair property division agreement with the other spouse.

Source: Huffington Post, “For Artists, Divorce Means Splitting Up the (Art) Assets”, Daniel Grant, March 3, 2015

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