Protecting Your Family Heirlooms in a Divorce

Maybe it’s a ring from your great grandmother or your ancestor’s gun from the civil war era. Maybe you have a grandfather clock that has been in the family for generations or a kitchen table that dates back to the 1800’s. In almost every family, there are little pieces of valuable history that have been passed down through the generations. When it comes to a divorce some of these items may be viewed as marital property. As a result, you want to take precautions to protect these sentimental items.

The type of action you will need to take to protect your heirlooms is partially contingent on what types of assets are at issue and how they were acquired. As well, if your spouse played a part in enhancing their value, this may also play a part in the property division. For example, if a wife has a vintage mustang inherited from her father and her husband fixes the car by buying all the necessary parts and installing them, then he had a hand in increasing the value of the item. He can also argue that he invested in the automobile because of all of his purchases. If you acquired your heirlooms before your marriage, then chances are that they may be considered separate property. If you acquired the heirlooms after your marriage, then they may be joint property and subject to division.

There are times that a couple may be able to negotiate about heirlooms outside of court. For example, if you can prove that the item means more to you than it does to your spouse, and he chooses to agree with you about this, then you may be able to tell the court that no negotiations are needed regarding a particular furniture item or keepsake. If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement out of court, then the court will get involved and try to negotiate a fair division of the asset. If a particular property means a lot to you, you may want to hire an attorney from Cutter & Lax to come alongside you and help you with property negotiations.