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In a divorce, most of the couple’s possessions become divided equitably. In the eyes of a court, a painting is not different from the silverware, but people tend to have an emotional connection to artwork. This makes splitting the paintings a couple owns in a divorce complicated.

When a couple has acquired significant assets, the division process becomes more complicated. There are steps spouses can take to try to retain artwork they really want to keep.

Get a prenuptial agreement beforehand

One spouse may have already gotten artwork prior to marriage. He or she wants to keep the paintings in the event the couple divorces. This is much simpler to accomplish if the couple gets a prenup before marrying. A prenup forces both spouses to come to the table with all their assets and debts. The document states who gets what assets in a divorce.

Have documentation showing the paintings did not come from marital funds

In the event you do not have a prenup, you need to at least show you bought the paintings with separate funds. There are two types of assets considered in a divorce: separate and marital. Separate property involves items one spouse purchases using his or her own money. Marital property involves assets the couple bought together. You need a receipt showing the date you purchased the artwork so that you can prove you bought it before the wedding.

Appraise the artwork

You need a professional appraiser to look at the paintings to come up with a value. The court can take this value into consideration when dividing everything else. If you do not appraise your paintings, then the judge will come up with a price tag, and it may not be accurate. Above all else, you need to inform your attorney ahead of time if you have any valuable paintings, sculptures or first edition books you want to hold onto.