When you get to divorce court, if you and your spouse have not been able to settle on a property division agreement, the judge will take a look at your list of assets and decide how best to divide them fairly. However, the judge probably does not have much of an idea of the fair market value of your antiques or your spouse's art collection. He or she may simply assign one to you and the other to your spouse without worrying about whether one is worth more money.
If your spouse's art collection is worth thousands of dollars or more, you should receive other assets to balance it out. The potential loss from failing to valuate personal property could be significant.
Do some research
Even though you are not a professional, you can check some professional resources to get an idea of whether you should go to the expense of hiring a valuation expert. For example, with antiques, you may be able to find similar pieces from the same time period and discover what price range they sell for or speak to a dealer about recent sales.
Of course, each item has unique features that can affect the value, so this initial research should only be a precursor to further investigation or the hiring of a professional.
Find the right professional
Once you decide to hire an appraiser, more research is necessary. Not only do you want to find an appraiser who specializes in the type of item you need a valuation for, you also want one who is willing to testify in court as an expert witness. If your spouse does not believe the value your appraiser reaches is correct, he or she may hire someone else to reach a different number.
To ensure that the court respects your expert's opinion, find someone who uses the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. An appraiser who is part of a professional organization such as the American Society of Appraisers may also have more credibility in the eyes of a judge.