If you and your spouse own a valuable collection and you are planning to get divorced, there are some critical things to keep in mind about property division under Virginia law (Code of Va. § 20-107.3). Virginia divorce law (Code of Va. § 20-91) gives the court the power to classify and determine the value of property owned by the spouses, and to determine what an equitable distribution of the marital property looks like. Indeed, Virginia is an equitable distribution state, which means that all property will be classified either as separate or marital property, and then all marital property will be divided between the spouses in a manner that the court considers to be equitable given the facts of the divorce case.
When items in a valuable collection are classified as marital property, those objects will need to be divided. However, this can be more complicated than you might think, and it is often necessary to work with additional experts who can ensure that your property is accurately classified and valued. An article in the Wall Street Journal discusses some of the complications of dividing an art collection in a divorce, and we want to consider that article in providing you with some tips for dividing a valuable collection in your Manassas divorce.
Locate Any and All Property Records You Have Concerning the Collection
In order to ensure that the court accurately classifies the objects contained in your collection—as either separate or marital property—it is critical to locate any and all records you have concerning the purchase of those objects. If you have receipts or any other purchase documents, you will want to have those available to provide to the court. Such receipts and proofs of purchase will be essential for proving either that certain pieces of the collection are your separate property, or disproving your spouse’s contention that certain items in the collection are actually his or her separate property. To be clear, most items acquired prior to the date of the marriage will be classified as separate property, as will possessions acquired during the marriage by gift, inheritance, or when they are purchased with separate assets.
You will also want to gather records of purchase prices and appraisals. While you will likely need a more up-to-date appraisal, these materials can be useful in valuing the object and, if necessary, separating out separate and marital assets if the objects were acquired with commingled property.
Hire an Appraiser
Your divorce lawyer can discuss specific options with you for hiring an appraiser, but in general, you will want to work with an expert who specializes in appraisals of the type of objects in your collection—whether it is artwork, rare books, antique furniture, or cars, or any other kinds of collection. An appraiser will be able to provide a current market value estimate for the property (which is the amount that the collection could likely be sold for if it were to go on the market today). Given that many objects in collections fluctuate in value depending on the market, you will want to have an objective appraisal that the court can use as it determines an equitable distribution of marital property.
Consider a Settlement Agreement If You Do Not Want to Divide the Collection
If the majority of the collection is marital property and you do not want to divide it (with you receiving some of the objects from the collection and your spouse receiving others), you can consider a settlement agreement that allows you to keep the entire collection.
Contact a Manassas Divorce Attorney
Dividing collections in a divorce can get messy and complicated, but one of our Manassas divorce attorneys can assist you. Contact Dougherty Tobias Iszard, Northern Virginia Law, P.C. today.