Divorce and the division of artistic works created by one spouse

Many couples in Massachusetts will have to contend with divorce one day. It is especially pertinent in the town of North Adams, which has the highest divorce rate in the state where 1,973 divorcees live in a total population of 13,211. 

The couple will need to figure out how to equitably divide assets, but this becomes complicated when one or both spouses work as an artist. Many painters and singers live in Massachusetts, and although a spouse may have created a certain work years ago, it may still generate revenue. It is important to consider all items, material and immaterial, when going through a divorce to ensure you leave nothing on the table. 

How to know if the artwork is marital property

Any artwork you create before the marriage would not be eligible for division upon divorce. At this point, it becomes known as separate property, and it would solely belong to the artist. If an artist sold a piece of artwork before the marriage but did not receive payment until afterward, then the piece would still count as separate property. It is paramount for all artists, even if they have not broken out yet, to create prenuptial agreements prior to the wedding to increase their chances of retaining their intellectual property in the event of a divorce. 

How to make an inventory of artwork in an oncoming divorce

For artwork considered marital property, the spouse will need to keep tabs on the value of every piece. Both spouses have a right to bring in an appraiser to determine the value of a piece. Because many artists want to retain their art until after selling it, many times, the couple can come to an arrangement. The artist retains the pieces while the other spouse receives other marital assets of equal value. Determining any future revenue of a piece of art will also need to come into play.

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