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Who gets the artwork in a divorce?

Among the many other contentious battles over property post-divorce, divvying up artwork is often the most challenging. Whether you’re a collector or an artist yourself, your former spouse may pursue some of your pieces, either for ownership or sale value. In this case, the Art Law Journal explains how artwork is divided up and how to value it for asset division.

First, couples must understand how property division works in general. While there are differences in legislation in every state, in general property is divided into two categories: marital and separate. This means that only those items created or purchased during a marriage are considered fair game in divorce proceedings. Anything acquired or made before or after is usually considered the property of the owner or artist. 

However, when it comes to financial matters this process gets a bit more complex. Putting a price tag on art entails a comprehensive valuation of your pieces by a professional art appraiser. An appraiser will look into several different areas to determine a value for a specific piece, including its worth on the open market. This valuation will be used by the court when dividing up assets. In some cases, both parties hire different appraisers, who will likely offer rival interpretations of the value.

If you’re the creator of the piece you may be covered under copyright laws when it comes to ownership. These laws stipulate that only the creator has the power to distribute, reproduce, or profit from any works. However, rights can be transferred to another individual, which is often the case during divorce proceedings. Transfer of rights is often accompanied by a contract that stipulates what the new owner can and cannot do with the work. Not following these stipulations could lead to legal repercussions for the new owner. 

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Lorrie J. Zahodnic

"I will hold you up until you can stand on your own two feet."

Lorrie J. Zahodnic, P.C. has provided skilled and compassionate legal guidance to Michiganders in family law matters for over 20 years.

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