It’s very common for artists to think of art as their own. A painter spends all of the time in his or her studio, working on masterful pieces that sell for hundreds or thousands of dollars when they get to the gallery. If you asked the painter and their spouse who owned those paintings, they’d both point to the painter.
But is that really how it works? If the couple splits up, do they both actually have a claim to that work? With potentially millions of dollars in unsold painting in the home, this is a very important question to ask.
When art belongs to you both
If you’re in this situation, your spouse clearly cannot claim the art as their own in any public sense, but the courts actually do see each piece of art as marital property. This isn’t true for art made before getting married or after getting divorced, of course, but everything in between counts.
Think of it this way: If you ran a business selling products, the money you earned while married and running that business would be marital property, and thus subject to the laws of division in a divorce. Art is the same way. You haven’t sold it yet, so you do not have the money in hand, but you have an asset that is now worth an incredible amount of money in your possession. Both you and your spouse can claim this possession until your divorce. That’s why you may have to divide up the value of the art, even though there is absolutely no dispute over who created it.
You definitely need to understand your legal position in a situation like this. There is too much money in play not to look into every option you have. Work with an attorney who fully appreciates your concerns and will advocate for your interests from start to finish.