Collectors take pride in their valuables, whether they collect art pieces, baseball cards or antiques. It could take months to years for a collector to gather the right pieces for their personal archives. However, there is one major threat to any collection: divorce.

In Tennessee, couples must divide all marital property through a process called property division. Throughout a divorce, the judge will divide the property among the spouses. This could possibly include any collectibles or entire collections.

How is that possible?

Each state has a different process for property division. A majority of states, including Tennessee, follow the equitable distribution approach. This means the judge will determine what property is marital property – assets shared between two spouses. Anything that is classified as marital property is eligible for division and will be divided fairly, not necessarily equally.

What does this mean for collections?

If the judge deems parts or all of the collection as marital property, your spouse may have the right to receive some of that property from divorce. It may be devastating for some collectors to give up some of their most valuable pieces during property division.

However, there are exceptions to equitable division. For example, if you receive a gift for your collection, it may be exempted from division. Or, if you (not you and your spouse) inherited a piece from a family member, that may also be exempted from marital property.

The eligibility of items to be divided as marital property depends on the collector and how the collection grew throughout the marriage. To protect your collection, it’s best to start an open discussion with your partner about how to compromise on which assets each spouse will receive.