Property division is one of the most difficult and stressful parts of a divorce. If you have built up any sort of collection - whether it's art, coins, stamps, or something else - you are probably concerned about what will happen to it.
When and How Did You Accumulate Your Collection?
Generally, the deciding factor is whether these collections were acquired during the marriage. If so, a court will assume that the property belongs equally to both parties, and it will attempt to fairly divide the collection.
If the collection was acquired before the marriage, then ownership remains with whoever purchased it originally.
These standards raise an interesting question:
What If You Had the Collection Before the Marriage, But You Added to It During the Marriage?
In this case, the individual pieces you acquired while you were married will be up for debate. This is true whether you bought the piece or your spouse gave it to you as a gift.
Protecting Your Collection in a Divorce
It is impossible to predict exactly what will happen, but there are some things that you can do to protect your interests.
Try to Make an Agreement First
Attempting a negotiation with your spouse or partner about asset division can be difficult. Items of value, whether sentimental or monetary, make the process even more taxing.
To make things easier for both parties, it’s helpful to make an agreement right away. Talk through each item. Try to determine which person has a greater attachment to it and who will use it most in the future. If you are the only spouse emotionally invested in the collection, it may be easy to argue that it should belong to you.
As we all know, however, divorce can create tensions, and people sometimes just want to “win.” Mediation can help you talk through a high-value collection. A neutral third party can help you decide a fair way to keep your collection while compensating your spouse.
Hire an Appraiser
Valuing items that are part of an agreement can be a difficult process, as both parties may have their own opinion on the items' worth.
If you can't come to an agreement, it may be time to hire a professional appraiser to accurately determine the value of each item. This can ensure both parties are on the same page when finalizing a deal.
Taking the Matter to Court
When an agreement is impossible, the court can decide who gets which items.
In this case, make sure you have documentation of each piece’s value. If you have a vast collection, such as with books, comics, or vinyl records, get a general idea of how much the whole collection is worth. Then, get separate appraisements for the most expensive, individual pieces.
The Two Methods of Property Division
Equitable property division splits assets fairly but not necessarily equally. The person who uses the property the most or made the biggest contribution to it can generally keep it. This is the most common type of property division in the United States, and Florida uses this model.
Community property division, on the other hand, is a system that considers spouses the co-owners of all marital assets. In this system, all marital assets are split 50/50, regardless of who earned them or whose name is on the title. If you keep your collection under this system, you may owe your spouse 50% of any portion you acquired during the marriage.
Ask for What You Want
Remember that when you are negotiating in a divorce, nothing is off the table. Don't be afraid to ask for what you want. Make sure to think through these decisions carefully. They can have a major impact on your life post-divorce. You have certain rights, and you shouldn't hesitate to make reasonable, fair requests.
Even if you don’t get everything you want, the courts can give you a settlement that reflects the valuation of your collections. Be honest with your requests, and take steps to protect yourself during this difficult process. Russell S. Hershkowitz, L.L.C. can help ensure that everyone ends up satisfied in the end.
Our firm is here to assist you in protecting and fairly distributing high assets in your divorce. For a free consultation, you can call us at (407) 753-4111 or contact us online.