In the average divorce, the division of assets process focuses mainly on things like the family home, bank accounts, retirement savings and credit card debt. Legally, personal possessions like clothing, furniture and record collections are called “chattels.” Whichever spouse chattels end up with often has more to do with sentimental value than dollars and cents. For example, one spouse might push harder to keep an antique vase that was a gift from their grandmother.
But some chattels would carry a high price tag, such as a classic car, jewelry collection or painting by a world-famous artist. The latter, a collage by Jackson Pollock estimated to be worth $175,000, is at the center of a divorce-related legal dispute that has gone through the Connecticut civil courts for more than two years.
Gift or loan?
The husband in the divorcing couple says the painting was a gift from his wife’s brother to him and his wife. But the brother disputes this claim. He says that he only lent the painting to the couple with the understanding that they would keep it “insured [and] properly cared for” and would return it to him at his request.
That request came when the couple began divorce proceedings in 2018, but the husband refused to return it. The brother eventually sued in 2020, and the case has been in court ever since. A recent appellate court ruling separated the dispute over the artwork from the rest of the divorce case.
This is a fairly extreme example of how far a property dispute can go in divorce. But if you own expensive artwork or other high-value items, and you do not have a prenuptial agreement that works out which spouse will keep them, you will have to find a way to settle the matter with your ex.