What happens to the art when artists divorce?

by | Mar 12, 2015 | Firm News, Property Division |

Property division is often a challenge in divorce cases, but it can be especially difficult when one or both of the divorcing spouses is an artist. Determining the value — and potential value — of art produced during the marriage can be a fraught topic for people who have never before had to look at their work as “property,” and especially not as the property of a spouse. In states like Connecticut, with equitable distribution, the calculations can be even more complex.

Experts advise that artists going through a divorce develop an accurate inventory of their work, specifying whether a piece was created before or during the marriage and whether or not the item has been sold. Hiding unsold artwork or failing to disclose licensing agreements is ill-advised; doing so could lead to the asset eventually being allocated 100 percent to the other spouse. Artists also need to establish values for their pieces, and ideally, this is done by an appraiser approved by both parties.

During a divorce, art may not be sold, loaned or destroyed without the consent of the other spouse. A non-artist spouse will often approve the sale of a work, as it generates funds that can be shared. Artists who want to keep their work may have room for negotiation if they are willing to part with other items of value, such as a car, electronics or even real estate.

A family law attorney can help a divorcing spouse sort out the challenges of marital property division. They can provide references for appraisers and help deal with the intricacies of valuing copyright and licensing contracts. A lawyer can also assist with establishing equitable distribution of often disparate types of assets.

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