We’re getting a divorce in Oakland County, Michigan. What Should We Do About Our Artwork?

A woman sitting on a bench in a museum, looking at three large framed paintings.

There really is a lot to figure out when a couple gets divorced. If they have children, then dealing with custody agreements and figuring out child support is often the primary focus. Diving their assets is another issue that can take a long time and be quite complex, especially if they own multiple homes, vehicles, or other significant investments. But what about artwork? Many couples invest in art over the course of a marriage, and when they decide to terminate that relationship and start over, they’re faced with the difficulty of deciding what to do with their collectible artwork. 

Sentimental attachment to art can cloud your perspective

When you love something it can mean a lot more to you than to someone else. This is true of just about anything in life. Aunt Ethel’s bone china teacups might be priceless to you because of the link they provide to a loved one you have fond memories of. But on Ebay they’re probably going to bring about $5 a piece. And art is no different. If you love a particular painting, or have a special attachment to a certain sculpture, those pieces are likely to have a significant worth in your mind that far outstrips what they’re actually worth from a retail standpoint. Obviously this is far different that art that was purchased as an investment with hopes that it would gain value over the years. 

So how do you figure out what your art is really worth?

The only way to be certain that you know the true value of your art is to hire an art appraiser. An appraiser has no sentimental attachment to any of your pieces, and is an expert in valuing art at its current resale price. Hiring an appraiser to determine the actual value of your art collection before you decide how you want to proceed with dividing your assets will help you make informed decisions. That doesn’t mean that emotional attachments will be tossed aside. However, it does mean that emotions don’t get valued in the property division portion of a divorce case here in Michigan.

The number of valuable pieces you own may help, or hurt, the issue.

A divorcing couple who owns one valuable piece of art is automatically faced with the difficult decision of determining which one of them gets to keep the piece and which one has to pass on it. If neither of them wants that one piece of art, the issue is easily solved by selling it and dividing the money. However if both of them want to keep it, there can be serious arguments ahead while they figure out who gets to keep the art, and who gets something else of equal, or perhaps even greater value, as compensation.In the end, experienced divorce attorneys understand that the value each assets ends up on a spreadsheet and then the total net value of those assets is divided. When the parties are unable to negotiate which of them will get each asset, that is normally determined during mediation. If the spouses are unable to reach agreement in mediation, either the assets are liquidated or the issue is put to the judge for a decision. 

A couple with a significant collection is in a better position to bargain

If a couple owns many pieces of art they love, they can work out a division of the pieces where each of them gets to keep several pieces they love. (This doesn’t mean you’ll get all the paintings you love, or your favorite sculpture, but it does mean you’ll likely get certain pieces you wanted.) One of the best ways to avoid fighting over art is to ensure that you cover this particular issue in your prenuptial agreement before you even get married. Having a solid prenup in place means a lot less fighting down the road.Prenuptial agreements are an entirely separate topic and should be discussed long before saying “I do”. 

An experienced divorce attorney can make the entire process easier

Divorce is stressful, no matter how well prepared you are, or how civil you and your spouse are to one another. But having a highly skilled divorce attorney in Oakland County, with decades of experience can make a huge difference, both to the outcome of your divorce, and to how smoothly the process is handled. So if you’re looking to end your marriage, and you want help from one of Oakland County’s premier family law firms, (even if you don’t own an art collection) call The Kronzek Firm at 248 479 6200. We’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including weekends and holidays, to help you navigate this difficult time. Our top-rated divorce lawyers accept cases in Oakland County, Livingston County, Macomb County and Wayne County. Our office is located on Northwestern Highway in Farmington Hills, MI.