Could I Lose a Valuable Collection in a Divorce?

Tea Cup Collection

These days, more adults seem to ignore the adage of “putting away childish things.” Instead, they embrace the icons of their youth, feeling empowered and invigorated by them.

There are more and more adults with vast pop culture collectibles. They have vinyl record collections, long boxes full of comics, rows of 4K Blu-ray movies, statues of their favorite cartoon characters, and more. To a collector, each piece in their collection is precious.

These adults also face the same life trials as anyone else. As they age, at least 50% of them are likely to go through a divorce. Divorce can be terrifying for someone who has a treasured collection, no matter what it is.

Here is a broad overview of how to keep your collectibles in a divorce.

Marital Property

First, you should understand what does and doesn’t qualify as a “marital asset.” There are always exceptions, but generally, anything that either spouse purchases during the marriage qualifies.

Think about how this fact applies to your valuables. You may have had a video game collection you’ve amassed since you were a child. If, however, you added any new pieces to that collection during your marriage, your spouse is legally the co-owner of that piece.

Your State’s Property Division System

Before you start executing a plan to keep your collection, you should learn which system your state uses. Generally, states use one of two methods to distribute property in a divorce.

Equal Distribution

In this system, marital assets are divided equally. Each spouse is meant to walk away with 50% of the overall value of the marital property, debt included.

Many consider this system to be antiquated, and only nine states still use this method.

Equitable Distribution

Most states use this system, including Maryland. In an equitable distribution state, the court decides which spouse is more “deserving” of property and gives it to them free of obligation.

Entitlement to Property

When you want to keep property in a divorce, you must explain why you are “entitled” to that property.

There are two major arguments you can use to prove that you deserve to keep property.

  • You Were the Primary User
    This argument states that, no matter who directly paid for the item, you used it most, and it is therefore “yours.” People often use this argument to keep a vehicle after a divorce.

    Primary use is an easy claim to make for your collection. Chances are, it existed before the marriage, and you were its caretaker. Perhaps your spouse used it from time to time, and they may have even bought you new pieces for it. Everyone in the home, however, understands that the collection “belongs” to you.
  • You Contributed More to the Asset or Added to Its Value
    Again, this is easy to prove with a collection. Most likely, you sought out new pieces and made the most additions. Doing so both grew the collection and made it more valuable.

Even if you can prove that you deserve to keep your collection, your state’s distribution system could cause you problems.

Keeping Your Collection in an Equitable System

In states like Maryland, keeping your property can be painless. As long as you can prove you deserve to keep something, the court may not ask you to give your spouse anything in return.

Keeping Your Collection in an Equal System

Under this system, keeping any marital asset can be complicated. You will owe your spouse half the value of whatever you keep.

Simply determining this value will be difficult in your collection. You must decipher which pieces existed before and during the marriage. Anything added during the marriage will be a marital asset.

Then you must figure out how to properly compensate your spouse to keep the entire collection. After all, the value is within the collection itself. You may not have the liquid assets to directly pay your spouse for their portion.

You do have other options. You can trade physical property until each spouse has 50% of the marital property. When that fails, it may be necessary to sell off assets and split the profits, making sure each spouse receives an equal share.

Law Office of Nicholas T. Exarhakis is here to help you achieve a fair property split in your divorce. For a free consutation, call us now at (410) 593-0040 or contact us online.

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