How Are Collectibles Divided in a Divorce?

By Michael DiFalco

There are several important matters to handle during a divorce, including property division. However, dividing property, including collectibles, between spouses can be particularly challenging, especially when the two have certain attachments to their items. Fortunately, a skilled divorce attorney can assist throughout the process. 

What are collectibles?

A collectible is any item of interest or value to a collector. These items can range in size and monetary value and may include things such as:

  • Paintings and sculptures
  • Stamps
  • Coins
  • Sports memorabilia
  • Antiques
  • Wines
  • Books
  • Vintage cars
  • Fine china

People are often motivated to collect their favorite items for various reasons, such as financial investments or sentimental value. No matter the reason, though, splitting up the possession of collectibles during a divorce can be one of the biggest points of contention for spouses. 

How Property Is Divided in New York

New York is an equitable distribution state, which means property is divided in a manner that is fair (or “equitable”) to both parties in a divorce. Despite how that may sound, it does not mean each party receives an even 50/50, as certain factors impact the way property should be distributed between spouses. 

Separate vs. Marital Property

To fairly divide collectibles between spouses, it’s critical to determine whether the items in the collection are separate property, marital property, or both. In general, only marital property is available for distribution in divorce cases. This refers to property acquired by spouses after entering the marriage. 

Separate property, on the other hand, is property acquired by one spouse before entering the marriage. Inheritances and gifts are commonly considered separate property, as well, even if a spouse obtained the property during their marriage.

Under most circumstances, separate property is not up for distribution. But it may become marital property if it is commingled (mixed, in other words) at some point during the marriage.

It’s worth noting that, to divide collectibles, the items in the collection must be deemed marital property. If collectible items are all separate property, the rightful owner can take possession. Should items be marital property, the right method of division depends on your situation. 

Options for Dividing Collectibles in a Divorce

Every divorce case is different. Therefore, it’s helpful to determine what works for spouses based on the circumstances of their case. Generally, there are three available options for dividing collectibles: selling and splitting, dividing the items, and buying out. 

Sell the Collection and Split the Profits

First and foremost, you can choose to sell your collection and split the profits between you and your spouse. Before doing so, you’d need to get a property appraisal to determine the fair market value of the items. 

Divide the Collectibles Between the Spouses

You and your spouse can also choose to divide the collection into two halves, with each of you keeping certain items. While not ideal for some, it is a process that can take the stress of selling items off the table. 

One Spouse Buys the Other Out

If each spouse separately owns part of the collection, one spouse can buy the other spouse out and keep the entire set of items. This is often a simple solution if one spouse doesn’t have a particular attachment to the items and doesn’t mind parting ways with their share. 

Getting Legal Help for Property Division in Your Divorce

Property division is one of the most difficult parts of a divorce, especially for special items like collectibles. However, a divorce lawyer can assist you with your case and help ensure you get the most favorable outcome. The family law firm of Aiello & DiFalco, LLP proudly serves clients throughout Garden City, Nassau County, Long Island, and Queens. Contact our firm today to schedule a consultation with an experienced New York divorce attorney.

About the Author
I am a partner at Aiello & DiFalco LLP, and my priority for my clients is to guide them through an arduous court case to provide them with the opportunity to write the next chapter in their life. I tailor my approach to each client’s priorities and positions, and to the extent that matters can be predicted, I will always provide a realistic perspective of how the law could be applied to the particular facts and circumstances of a case. Since I thrive on helping people and solving problems, I bring an optimistic and positive approach to practicing in a very difficult area of law. With more than a decade of experience handling hundreds of cases, I have the ability to get results on the issues my clients view as priorities. When cases or certain issues cannot be settled, I have a solid record of success at trials, hearings, and on appeals. Feel free to contact me for a free initial consultation, I am always available to help.