Kevin Qualls Family Law
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When artists divorce, it raises unique property division issues

Orange County is home to many artists. Artists may assume that unsold artwork they created, whether it is in storage, on loan to a museum or hanging in the family home, is their property. However, they may be surprised to find out that in the case of a divorce, "their" artwork may actually be marital property.

If an artist creates a work of art while married, it may be considered to be marital property, and subject to property division on an equal basis with the non-artist party. That being said, pieces of art created before the parties married, as well as pieces of art created after the parties have filed for divorce, may be considered separate property.

Therefore, if an artist has decided to end his or her marriage, one of the first things he or she should do after hiring an attorney is to make an inventory of all the artwork he or she created, both before getting married and during the marriage. This inventory should note which pieces of art have sold and for how much and which pieces of art have not been sold.

Also, the pieces of art at issue need to be valued. For example, this could be done through a professional appraisal or by a dealer. While sometimes the parties can agree on who will value the artwork, they both have the right to each have their own expert value the art. Past sales can also factor into the value of a piece of art.

If a piece of art has not been sold, it needs to be located. This is because hiding any property in a divorce, including artwork, could form the basis of future legal action against the party hiding the property. In fact, if a party fraudulently tries to hide assets, half or even the entire amount of those assets may end up being awarded to the other party.

In the end, it is often helpful for couples to try to negotiate the division of property, including artwork created while married. There may be other significant assets the artist will be willing to part with during the property division process in exchange for keeping their artwork. With the right help, it is entirely possible for an artist's career to continue on, even after the artist's marriage has ended.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Artwork Gets Thrown into the Mix When Artists Divorce," Daniel Grant, Oct. 24, 2016

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