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How Can I Protect My Collectibles in a Divorce?


Difficulties often accompany a divorce, especially when it comes to your property. You must balance dividing assets with your need to protect personal, sentimental items.

For many, those items include personal collections they accumulated over the years. Many modern adults have scores of vinyl records, comic books, high-quality action figures, and so on. These items certainly hold financial value, but they also take up space in the collector’s heart.

This article is here to help you understand how courts handle property in an Iowa divorce, and it applies those rules to your valuable collections.

Who Owns Collectibles in a Marriage?

In most cases, both partners have acquired assets during their marriage. Deciding who deserves what can be a contentious issue.

If the asset is jointly owned, both parties have equal rights to it. Mostly, this applies to anything that either party purchased during the marriage.

This fact can make it difficult to divide pieces in a collection fairly. Technically, any part of the collection you owned before the marriage is separate property, and it belongs to you alone. You probably added new pieces after the wedding. Therefore, your spouse is co-owner of those additions.

Asset Division in a Divorce

Some states use an “equal” or “community property” division system. Essentially, each spouse should walk away with 50% of the marital assets. You may be able to keep your collection. However, doing so means you will owe your spouse 50% of any piece that is jointly owned.

Most states, including Iowa, use an “equitable” distribution model. This system divides marital assets and debts based on fairness, regardless of which spouse has ownership or title.

Determining fairness means considering various factors such as:

  • The length of the marriage
  • Any prenuptial agreements
  • Each spouse's income and financial stability

Regardless of your state’s distribution model, you must convince the court that you deserve sole ownership of any jointly-owned piece in your collection.

Claiming Entitlement to Your Collection in a Divorce

To keep any property in a divorce, you must negotiate for sole ownership of any marital property.

  1. Here are some steps you can take to help ensure a fair and equitable distribution of marital assets.
  2. Approach these negotiations with an open mind and a willingness to compromise. Keep the lines of communication open, and be willing to listen to each other's perspectives.
  3. Create a list of all jointly owned items and their estimated value.
  4. Work with your spouse to determine who will keep each item.
  5. If there are disagreements, seek legal advice. Mediation is a great way for couples to reach a fair resolution in a divorce.

Primary Use of a Collection

Another way to help keep your property is to claim that you are the collection’s primary user or contributor.

This claim involves gathering evidence of your personal interest in the collection.

Such evidence (depending on the type of collection) includes:

  • Photos of you attending conventions, concerts, etc.
  • Set lists from concerts you attended, itineraries and souvenirs from conventions, etc.
  • Documentation demonstrating any financial investment you've made into the collection
  • Evidence that shows how long you’ve been building the collection, even if you added many pieces after the marriage

Documenting Your Collectibles in a Divorce

To help make sure your property is fairly divided, you should thoroughly inventory all of your collectibles. You can start by taking photos and locating purchase receipts. This evidence can help prove ownership.

Consider hiring a third-party appraiser for your collection. This professional can offer an estimated value for your collection. Giving your collectibles a definitive worth can help you fairly distribute your assets. Third-party appraisals are particularly helpful when there's a dispute over your property’s value. Make sure you choose an appraiser who is impartial and knowledgeable. Doing so can help protect you from allegations that you are trying to trick or cheat your spouse out of money.

The Law Offices of Mark R. Hinshaw, PLC understand that all property is important in a divorce. We are here to help protect whatever is important to you, from a house to an old magazine collection. To schedule time with our team, contact us online or call us at (515) 200-7571.