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How to account for art in a divorce

On Behalf of | Apr 1, 2024 | Divorce

In a divorce, marital assets such as artwork are divided in an equitable fashion per Pennsylvania law. However, there are steps that you can take in an effort to retain control of your favorite pieces or your entire collection. Those steps might include adding art to a prenuptial agreement or waiving your right to other assets in exchange for a painting or sculpture.

How a prenup might help

A valid prenuptial agreement generally overrides state property division laws. Therefore, you could stipulate that a given painting or sculpture belongs to you regardless of how it was acquired. You could also state that any art works that are acquired after the marriage are also your sole property regardless of how they were acquired. As long as the document is structured and executed properly, it should be recognized by a divorce judge.

Exchanging artwork for other assets

Absent an agreement, if your case goes to trial, you have no control over what a judge might do. Therefore, if you really want to keep your art collection, you may want to include it as part of a final settlement. This might mean that you give up your right to the family home, a bank account or something else of equal value in exchange.

Make sure to keep good records

Regardless of what happens to your paintings or other works of art, getting the best outcome requires keeping good records. For example, proving that you bought a painting with your own money might bolster your chances of keeping it. Proper documentation might also bolster your claims about the history of the item and how much it is worth. Determining a collection’s value can be helpful if you want to exchange it for other assets within the marital estate.

A divorce settlement hinges on a number of factors including your relationship with your spouse and the strength of the evidence. Ideally, you will be able to negotiate in good faith to retain some or all preferred assets.