Published on:

Art’s about the heart… or is it about the money?

Property division during California divorce isn’t all about the money in every instance. For some things it is about the emotions attached to the item. A pet is considered a piece of property with a specific value by most courts, but it is considered an invaluable member of the family to most pet owners. 

It is much the same for art. Value is not always determined by the amount of money a painting might sell for. Have you ever heard the saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”? Much of this saying is based on the feeling that a person gets when they look at a piece of art, the emotions the piece invokes or the sentiment they have attached to it. 

This emotional tie can seriously complicate the property division portion of some divorces, especially high-asset ones. Take for example the case of Christopher Larson, a retired Microsoft executive and minority owner of the Seattle Mariners and his wife Julia Calhoun. 

The couple easily divided up a handful of luxury vehicles, baseball memorabilia, vases and other expensive assets. What they got stuck on was the art. They both agreed to split the art so that each ended up with $51 million worth. However, when they tried to do this, their emotions made it difficult. What worked financially didn’t help them sentimentally. Twice they tried and twice they failed. When the judge stepped in, he didn’t fare much better as he tried to honor the feelings of the couple instead of simply splitting the art collection down the middle. 

In the end, it was a mixed split. The money evened out, and each couple got one or two pieces that they felt they could not live without, a few they really did not want and a handful of ones that fell in the middle of their sentiment-scale.

Source: Seattle Times, “The art of divorce: She gets Monet, he gets the Renoir,” July 28, 2012

If you are struggling with how to divide property during a divorce, our California community property division page provides a wealth of information on the subject.