Protecting Your Valuable Collectibles in a Divorce

Collectors know that the pieces they acquire hold valuable memories, and they also hold tangible economic value. Going through a divorce can be particularly hard on collectors. This process forces you to make difficult choices about asset division, including any collectibles they’ve amassed.

Perhaps this situation applies to you. You may have a treasured vinyl, comic book, or video game collection. Without properly addressing these items during a divorce, you risk losing items that mean the world to you.

In this article, we offer a broad overview of how asset division works in a divorce, and we apply this information to your collections.

Understanding Asset Division in Divorce

When dividing assets, states typically follow one of two models: equitable distribution or community property distribution.

Equitable distribution, the more common approach, involves dividing marital assets “fairly.” Essentially, the court decides who needs or deserves the asset more, and it gives the asset to them. Ohio is an equitable distribution state.

Community property law states that all marital property is jointly owned by both spouses. In a divorce, community property distribution, or “equal distribution,” tries to give each spouse 50% of all the marital assets.

When it comes to your collectibles, you must first determine whether the assets are “marital property" or “separate property.” This categorization will make a huge impact on your ability to keep your treasures.

Identifying Separate Property vs. Marital Property

Only one spouse owns separate property, and they should be able to keep it after a divorce.

This property includes:

  • Inheritances
  • Anything you owned prior to the marriage
  • Gifts you receive from people outside of the marriage

Marital property refers to any asset that either spouse acquired during the marriage. Legally, both spouses own this property equally.

These classifications pose a problem to collectors. You certainly have pieces you owned before the marriage, but you also have pieces you purchased since tying the knot. Furthermore, your spouse may have bought you other pieces for your birthday.

Trying to determine exactly which piece is separate or marital is time-consuming and costly, and you don’t want to be locked in a property dispute over one record or one issue of The Hulk.

Valuation of Collectibles

Valuing collectibles accurately is an important part of a fair divorce settlement. The appraisal process typically involves hiring a professional appraiser. This expert can assess an item's condition, rarity, market demand, and provenance.

Make sure to find an appraiser who is both qualified and unbiased. An accurate valuation helps ensure a fair asset division. It can also help make sure any necessary sales reflect your collectibles’ true worth.

Legal Strategies for Protecting Collectibles

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

These legal documents can clearly define which collectibles should remain separate property. Doing so protects them from division in a divorce.

When entering such an agreement, you must be transparent and fair, and the terms must be enforceable.

Negotiation Tactics for Retaining Collectibles

You don’t have to rely on a court to make property decisions in your divorce. Spouses have the right to create their own terms.

Here are some negotiation strategies you can use to protect your collection:

  • Propose a buyout, paying your spouse for any portion they may own
  • Offer your spouse other assets in exchange for keeping your collectibles

Approach these negotiations with a clear understanding of your collectibles' value and a willingness to compromise. Legal representation is crucial in these discussions, so make sure to talk to an attorney before starting.

Claiming Entitlement of Your Collection

“Entitlement” refers to a legal right to possess, control, or use property. If you must go to court for your divorce, and there is a property you want to keep, you must convince the court that you are the rightful owner of that property, claiming entitlement to it.

One of the best ways to claim entitlement to your collection is by proving you are the property's primary user. Doing so means demonstrating you are the one who primarily acquired, displayed, cared for, and enjoyed the collectibles throughout the marriage. By establishing yourself as the primary user, you will have a stronger claim to retaining possession of those items.

Fighting for your entire collection can help you avoid squabbling over individual pieces, no matter which legal path you choose.

Access and Control Issues

Disputes over collectibles during a divorce can be contentious. Sometimes, one spouse attempts to take control of these assets out of spite, or they use this control as a bargaining chip.

In this situation, you can take legal measures. An injunction, for instance, can prevent the removal or sale of your collectibles during the divorce.

If an angry spouse is blocking access to your property, act swiftly and seek legal counsel. A lawyer can help protect your rights, working to allow your access and control over your collectibles.

Crossman & McNamee, LLC is here to help you fight for your property rights in a divorce. If you’re concerned about your collectibles, reach out to us for a consultation. You can contact us online or call us at (937) 468-3796.