Can My Spouse Take My Rare Collectibles in a Divorce?

Collectibles are items that people gather and value due to their rarity, age, condition, or simply because they represent a specific period, event, or personal interest. These items are often sought after by enthusiasts who find joy, nostalgia, and even a sense of identity through their collections.

Building a rare collection is a deliberate pursuit, demanding dedication and meticulous effort. Collectors spend years meticulously acquiring pieces, often through serendipitous encounters, dogged perseverance, and shrewd negotiations. Each item transcends its monetary worth, becoming a carefully chosen tile in a larger narrative.

The thrill of the hunt, the deep research, and the quiet triumph of securing a coveted piece – these are the true rewards. In their curated worlds, vintage comics whisper of bygone eras, well-worn typewriters chronicle forgotten stories, and first-edition novels hold the echoes of forgotten voices.

For collectors, the value lies not in market price but in the tangible connection to history, the personal meaning imbued in each item, and the quiet satisfaction of a passion meticulously cultivated. So, in divorce cases where one party is a collector, questions about asset division, especially as it relates to rare collectibles, arise.

In this blog, we will discuss Tennessee’s equitable distribution laws and what these laws can mean for the division of someone’s collectibles. We will also outline what someone can do to protect their collection.

How Property Division Works in Equitable Distribution States

Marital assets (i.e. property acquired during the marriage) are divided fairly but not necessarily equally. If you purchased rare collectibles during the marriage, those items will be subject to division, so it is important to create a list of your collectibles that includes the dates you obtained them. If you have receipts or other records, you should set those aside as well.

The priority when dividing assets equitably is fairness rather than a 50/50 mathematical split. The court will consider a variety of factors when determining how to divide assets, including:

  • The length of the marriage.
  • Each spouse’s income and earning potential
  • Each spouse’s financial health
  • Each spouse’s separate assets
  • Each spouse’s debts
  • Each spouse’s financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage
  • Potential tax consequences of the division
  • Any other factors deemed relevant

Avoiding Court Involvement

While courts oversee equitable distribution if spouses cannot reach an agreement, couples have the power to negotiate their own property division settlement. You can negotiate with your spouse to protect your rare collectibles. However, you will need to prepare yourself to make other concessions to your spouse.

It is important to note that you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney. They can spearhead the negotiations and help you develop a strategy to obtain a favorable property division settlement.

Another way to potentially avoid court involvement in your asset division case is to have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in place. These agreements allow partners to outline how they wish to divide assets and liabilities in the event of a divorce. These agreements are legally binding and can only be contested in cases where:

  • a person was coerced into entering the agreement, or
  • a person failed to accurately disclose their assets or debts during the drafting of the agreement.

Understanding Collectibles & Their Value

There are so many different types of items that can be collectibles, including but not limited to:

  • Stamps. Stamp collecting, also known as philately, is one of the oldest and most popular forms of collecting. Stamps are miniature works of art that offer a glimpse into a country's history, culture, and significant events.
  • Coins. Numismatics, or coin collecting, is another widely practiced hobby. Coins, like stamps, bear historical and cultural significance. Additionally, coins made from precious metals can have intrinsic value.
  • Sports memorabilia. Sports memorabilia, including signed jerseys, balls, cards, and equipment used by famous athletes, hold immense value among sports fans. The value of these items often depends on the player's popularity and achievements, the item's condition, and its authenticity.
  • Antiques. Antiques are typically defined as items that are at least 100 years old. From furniture and artwork to toys and jewelry, antiques are prized for their craftsmanship, historical significance, and aesthetic appeal.

Factors Affecting the Value of Collectibles

Rarity is one of the most significant factors affecting the value of a collectible. Items produced in limited quantities or those that have survived from a particular era are often highly sought after. Condition also plays a crucial role; items in excellent or mint condition are usually worth more than those showing signs of wear and tear.

The age of an item can also impact its value, especially in the case of antiques. However, age alone doesn't guarantee value; the item must also hold some form of historical, cultural, or aesthetic significance.

The provenance or history of the item can greatly increase its value. An item owned or used by a famous person or one associated with a significant event can fetch a high price on the collector's market.

Importance of Valuations in Divorce Cases

Unlike readily quantifiable assets, rare collectibles defy simple categorization, their worth veiled by a nuanced tapestry of market dynamics and historical significance. This is where the importance of accurate property valuations comes into play.

Having these assets valuated can help you avoid disparities. Without reliable valuations, one spouse may unknowingly receive a significantly undervalued portion of the collection, breeding resentment and potentially fueling protracted legal battles. The collector spouse can also risk negotiating and trading the retention of their collectibles for assets of a greater value. A neutral, professional assessment ensures both parties receive their rightful share.

Discuss Your Case with Our Team

At Conner & Roberts, PLLC, our property division attorneys can help you develop a plan to protect your assets during your divorce. We offer our clients personalized counsel and take the time to understand your goals concerning asset division.

Worried about what may happen to your collectibles in a divorce? Talk with our divorce attorneys by calling (423) 299-4489 to schedule a case consultation.

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