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Ex-couple's art collection becomes focus of property split

Boston residents may have heard the report of a particular west coast couple whose tremendous wealth and assets was split in a rather pragmatic manner. A Seattle paper recently covered the story of a west-coast business mogul who, after 23 years, was divorcing his wife. Over that amount of time most couples probably pick up a knick-knack here or there that may become a contentious bargaining piece in a divorce, which is quite the understatement in this particular high-asset divorce.

The couple had an art collection worth an estimated $102 million which, due to the nature of fine collectible art in general, and the particulars of the 40-odd pieces, made for some interesting negotiations during property division. The couple, who had amicably split other marital property without much fuss, twice attempted to divide the art collection equally, but failed to do so. That's when the court stepped in to settle the squabble.

The judge asked each party to make a list of the pieces they most wanted and what they hoped to achieve or obtain as a whole. The wife took a more aesthetic approach, naming pieces she found particularly appealing or stirring, while the husband took a more financial-minded approach, naming pieces he could use as collateral to secure a bank loan. He also requested that his share cover lots of wall space, and so did not want to be given only a small number of pricey paintings. In the end, both sides got pretty much what they wished for.

Property division doesn't always work out so well though, and judges may not always be as personable and considerate as to take into account the myriad factors the judge in this case did to ensure each party's satisfaction. In a high-asset divorce, property division can be incredibly complex, but can be successfully achieved with the help of an experienced divorce attorney.

Source: The Seattle Times, "The art of divorce: She gets the Monet, he gets the Renoir," Ken Armstrong, July 28, 2012.

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