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How to Divide Collectibles in a Divorce


Like many states, Colorado requires an equitable division of marital property during divorce. This law requires spouses to divide their marital property in a way that’s fair to both spouses if not exactly 50/50. Marital property in Colorado includes any assets or property the spouses acquire during the marriage, regardless of whose name is on the account or deed. Divorcing spouses do NOT have to split separate property, which includes any property that was theirs alone before the marriage, and anything gifted to them or inherited by them during the marriage. When it comes to dividing collectibles, it may take an experienced Fort Collins divorce attorney to untangle marital property from separate property in order to fairly distribute collectibles and artwork.

How to Divide Collectibles in a Divorce

What are Collectibles?

Many people enjoy accumulating articles considered of value to collectors. This may include rare items, items important to pop culture, antiques, artwork, fine wine, sports memorabilia, first-edition books, vintage automobiles, or other items of interest or value. People may collect these items as a financial investment, for sentimental reasons, or for beauty and aesthetics.

Collectibles are a big industry worldwide, worth approximately $370 billion globally in 2021. These assets are common issues of contention during the division of marital property during a divorce.

Commingling of Collectibles and Other Property

When spouses file for divorce, they sometimes come to court with the expectation that a collection they’ve worked on accumulating since before their marriage—such as a rare stamp collection—remains their’s alone, while a collection they acquired together during their marriage—such as a wine collection—is subject to a fair division. However, untangling separate property from marital property isn’t always that simple. “Commingling” of assets commonly occurs during marriage, and that sometimes includes the commingling of collectibles.

Commingling can turn a spouse’s separate assets into marital assets. For example, if a spouse comes into the marriage with a stamp collection and the other spouse becomes interested and invests money into purchasing rare stamps, or a significant amount of time researching and seeking out stamps for their spouse, that spouse may have a valid claim on a portion of the stamp collection. 

Determining what each spouse is entitled to in a divorce may involve seeking receipts and other documentation to separate the commingled collection so each spouse takes their fair share during asset division.

Dividing Collectibles During Divorce

There are several issues that arise during the separation and distribution of collectibles when couples seek a divorce settlement agreement. These commonly contentious matters include the following:

  • Determining which collectibles are separate property, which are marital property, and which collectibles began as separate property and became commingled.
  • For valuable collections that appreciate in value over time, the amount of increased value is marital property, so a spouse may be entitled to a fair share of the amount of increased value
  • While collectibles gifted to one spouse alone by someone outside of the marriage remain their separate property, the courts may consider collectibles gifted from one spouse to another as marital property
  • When one spouse inherits collectibles, they remain separate property unless the other spouse invests time or money into making improvements, such as paying for cleaning and restoring artwork or antiques
  • One spouse may not want to divide a collection and can seek to buy out the other’s share of the marital property or trade it for property of equal value

Finally, divorcing spouses with a signed prenuptial or postnuptial agreement must abide by the terms set in the agreement regarding their collectibles. A well-executed prenuptial agreement trumps the state’s laws for the division of marital assets.

If collectibles of significant value are a part of your marital estate, it’s important to speak to an attorney about your rights under Colorado’s laws for the division of marital assets.

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