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Divorcing lobbyists dispute asset division

When a high-profile Colorado couple divorces, they can sometimes keep the details private. In the nation's capital, that's more difficult. In the case of a Washington, D.C. couple who both built successful lobbying practices, their high asset divorce has played out in national news media.

The couple has an extensive art collection which is at the center of a dispute over the asset division. In his divorce filings, the husband argues that he was collecting art before the two were married, and that much of it is his separate property. The wife argues that the couple jointly acquired the art collection, making it marital property, and has asked the judge to appoint a trustee to oversee its division. She has also requested the court to enter an order preventing her husband from selling or loaning any of the artworks.

In Colorado, property obtained during the marriage is considered marital property, regardless of whether one spouse or both acquired it. Property acquired before the marriage, or acquired through inheritance during the marriage, is separate property and is not divided. In a case like this, involving over 1,300 works of art, the parties would have to agree on how each piece was acquired, or let the judge make the determination.

Determining whether property is marital or separate is just one of the issues that must be addressed in a complex asset division. Asset valuation is another. When dealing with works of art, valuation can be a sophisticated exercise requiring the involvement of professional experts.

In Colorado, the appreciation in value of separate property is deemed marital property, which adds another wrinkle. If this divorce were taking place in Colorado two valuations would have to be made for each artwork that was deemed separate property: one as of the date of the marriage and one as of the date of the divorce.

Source: Politico.com, "Heather and Tony Podesta divorce documents released," Tal Kopan and Lucy Mccalmont, April 11, 2014

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