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Works produced by artist part of marital assets in divorce

Texas artists who are divorcing may not realize that their artwork may also be considered part of the community property of their marriages. While payments agreed upon or artwork produced prior to marriage or after separation are not included as part of marital property, all other artwork may be. This applies to filmmakers and writers as well as visual artists and may apply to other people who produce creative work as well.

How these assets are divided may depend upon how well-known the artist is and what value the other spouse places upon the artwork. For example, a spouse may agree to give up a claim on the artwork in exchange for other assets if they believe the work is not likely to sell for a significant price at a future date.

Some divorcing artists have worked out agreements in which their spouse receives decreasing shares of the artwork's value over time. "Peanuts" creator Charles Schultz worked out an agreement with his wife of more than 20 years that she would receive 27 percent initially from his cartoons, but over ten years, it would decrease to 15 percent. After 35 years of marriage, the wife of comedian Jerry Lewis agreed to allow him to remain the owner of his films but received some royalties from them.

Depending on the relationship between the divorcing spouses, it may be possible to reach similar agreements. If the divorce is amicable and having control of the artwork is very important to the artist, it may be possible for the two to negotiate a division of community property in which the other spouse keeps other valuable items. If the divorce is more contentious or the artwork is worth a great deal, asset division may be more complex.

Source: Huffington Post, "For Artists, Divorce Means Splitting Up the (Art) Assets", Daniel Grant, March 3, 2015

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