How Does the Court Divide an Art Collection in a Divorce?

I do not imagine that the average court is faced with “dividing an art collection” in the average divorce situation. It is the rare one percent of divorces that involve art collections. Most people do not have money to purchase expensive works of art. But sometimes it happens. Sometimes the court must decide who gets what art in a distribution of property in a divorce situation.
Most experts, including many experienced divorce lawyers advise clients not to let it get to that. If a court is dividing up an art collection, it means the parties were woefully unable to act like grown ups and decide who gets what on their own. That is usually going to mean that their art is going to get sold and sometimes not at the best price.
The Wall Street Journal has an article in its archives called, Tips for Dividing Art in a Divorce or Death. It is interesting because the attorney interviewed for the article advises two basic things. First, take an inventory and second hire an appraiser. Then basically negotiate with your partner to see who gets what piece of art based on the appraisal and doing any trade offs that need to be done in order to close the deal outside of court. Trade offs could mean against homes, other assets and even custody of children and pets.
This advice is sage advice because again, if the courts have to divide the art, the outcome is likely to be bad for one or both parties because the thing with art is that it is so personal and often has more to do with sentimental value than actual money value – and getting the best prices could mean NOT having an “auction.”