Collecting artwork has long been popular among married couples for a few reasons. Not only does artwork add beauty to any marital home, but it can also be quite valuable. Furthermore, finding the right piece to add to a collection can be a great deal of fun.
Like with other marital assets, spouses typically must divide art collections when they divorce. In Illinois, judges use principles of equity to determine how to split art collections. Still, dividing an art collection is often more challenging than dividing other marital assets.
Many divorce attorneys consider art collections to be in the same category as children or pets. That is, art owners often develop a fierce emotional attachment to their collections. Unlike other items which may only have monetary or utilitarian value, artwork may have substantial sentimental worth to both its owners.
The art market is notoriously fickle, with many pieces both gaining and losing value regularly. While it probably makes a great deal of sense for each spouse to obtain an independent appraisal of the collection, valuation disparities may complicate divorce settlement negotiations.
With many marital assets, spouses do not mind giving up ownership in exchange for cash. This is because many assets are replaceable. With an art collection, however, many items may be unique. If both spouses want to keep the artwork, at least one of them is going to have to part with it permanently.
Even though dividing an art collection during a divorce certainly has its challenges, it is usually not impossible for divorcing spouses to reach an acceptable agreement. Ultimately, though, a judge may have to intervene to determine how to split an art collection equitably.