No matter how complex or challenging your divorce or family law issue may be, we will fight to protect your rights.

How is original artwork divided during a divorce?

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2024 | Property Division

Dividing assets can be complex during the divorce process, especially for sentimental or valuable items like original artwork. California is a community property state, which means wealth acquired during the marriage is usually considered jointly owned by both spouses.

This includes artwork purchased during the marriage, regardless of who paid for it. However, artwork inherited by one spouse before marriage or acquired with separate funds (like premarital savings) may be considered separate property and generally remains with the owning spouse. Moreover, artwork received as a gift from a third party to a specific spouse is also generally considered separate property.

Division of community property artwork

The courts aim for an “equal division” of the asset’s value for artwork classified as community property. However, achieving this fair division can be tricky. Unlike a house or car, valuing artwork can be subjective. Factors like the artist’s reputation, the piece’s condition and current market trends all influence its worth. Moreover, physically dividing a painting or sculpture isn’t possible. This necessitates alternative solutions.

Thankfully, courts have a few options to achieve a fair division of community property artwork:

  • Sell the artwork: The artwork is sold, and the proceeds are divided equally after accounting for any selling costs.
  • Buy-out option: One spouse can buy out the other spouse’s interest in the artwork by paying them their fair share of the appraised value.
  • Spousal agreement:  Spouses can negotiate an agreement on ownership or possession of the artwork. This might involve one spouse keeping the artwork in exchange for other assets.

The judge will consider the value of the artwork relative to the overall marital estate when deciding on a solution.

Dividing artwork in a California divorce requires careful consideration. Understanding community property laws and exploring available options like appraisals and legal counsel can help achieve a fair and amicable outcome.