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Art collection at stake in major divorces

When people who have developed extensive and valuable collections of art, real estate or other items decide to divorce, the fate of these assets may hang in the balance. High-profile couples in the real estate and art world have moved toward divorce, leading to hundreds of millions of dollars of prized art pieces at stake. One divorce between two major real estate investors involves $800 million of art while another pair of collectors' hundreds of millions in art has led to serious delays in finalizing the end of their marriage. In the latter case, the couple remains far apart on reaching a settlement on property division.

When both spouses have fewer assets, there may be little to fight over in court. While studies have found that upper-middle-class couples are more likely to have major disputes over asset division, the ultra-wealthy may also wrangle over the distribution of their items. This may be especially true when valuable collectors' items or art pieces are involved as each piece is individual and has a unique material and sentimental value that may be highly desirable to both parties. The judge in one recent case has urged the couple to reach a settlement by focusing on dividing the value of the estate rather than negotiating about specific pieces of their extensive collection.

Of course, even high-asset divorces involve many more complex emotional issues as well. The couple in the case is also far apart on child custody issues alongside their property division dispute.

Valuable items that are particularly unique may be especially difficult to part with during a divorce, but it can also be challenging to reach a settlement over the family home and significant retirement funds. A family law attorney may work with a divorcing spouse to reach an agreement on a range of matters, including asset division and spousal support.

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