Could I Lose My Valuable Collectibles in a Divorce?

Divorce is an emotional, difficult experience. As couples struggle to untangle their life together into separate households, all of their assets get put under the microscope.

If you have valuable collectibles or antiques you’ve accumulated over the years, it can be especially hard to figure out what to do with them during a divorce. It doesn’t matter if it’s an old comic book collection or a recent shelf of 4K Blu-rays. These items are important to you, and you want to protect them from property division.

Whether you will keep or lose your collectibles mostly depends on when acquired them and who used them the most.

Pre-Marital and Post-Marital Property in New York

Pre-marital property refers to assets or property that someone owned before getting married. Post-marital property is everything either spouse acquired during the marriage.

In a New York divorce, pre-marital property is typically not subject to distribution, but post-marital property is.

These sometimes make property division easy. If you owned your car before the marriage, and you were its primary user during the marriage, you will probably be able to keep it without a hassle.

A collection can be much harder to quantify. You may have owned a good portion of it before your marriage, but you added to it during the marriage. Any individual piece you purchased while married could be subject to property division.

Determining Pre-Marital vs Post-Marital Collectibles in Your Divorce

As we’ve stated, collectibles that are acquired before the marriage are generally considered separate property, and they should be returned to the owner. However, collectibles purchased during the marriage become are subject to division.

Even pieces you owned before the marriage could become comingled. Your spouse may have evidence that you intended to give them certain pieces or otherwise involve them in the collection could. This could cause a court to give portions of that collection to your spouse.

Ultimately, it may become impossible to draw a direct distinction between pieces you bought before or during the marriage.

Using an Entitlement Argument to Keep Your Collectibles in a Divorce

When separating the property becomes too difficult, your best bet is to claim entitlement to the entire collection.

Essentially, this claim states that you used the items the most, and they are a significant part of your life. Therefore, they are rightfully yours.

Imagine a wife who is an avid music lover. She has a vast vinyl collection along with many CDs, high-quality downloads, and more. Her husband is a casual music fan, and he accessed the collection sporadically. In this case, the wife has a strong argument that the collection is essentially “hers,” and she should keep it after the marriage. This argument could work regardless of how much the collection grew during the marriage.

Tips for Handling Collectibles During a Divorce

Unfortunately, many couples view divorce as a battle to be “won” or “lost.” People may squabble over collections simply as a way to hurt one another.

If you cannot agree to one person keeping a collection, here are some other options:

  • One party buys out the other's share.
  • Sell the collectibles and split the proceeds.
  • Present your arguments in court, and let a judge decide.
  • Attend mediation, where you can work with a mediator to negotiate a solution.

Law Office of Tzvi Y. Hagler, P.C. is here to help you untangle complex property issues in a divorce. Contact us online to set up a free consultation, or call us today at (516) 514-3868.