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Property at issue in divorce of husband and wife art collectors

The divorce process can be extremely complicated, and no two cases are exactly alike. If you have children, their individual personalities and specific needs may largely shape the terms of your divorce. Likewise, if you and your spouse have accumulated significant assets during the course of your marriage, the amount of those assets and exactly how they were acquired may have to be carefully examined to reach what we call in Illinois an equitable property division.

Consider a widely publicized divorce currently unfolding between two art-collecting spouses. Tony Podesta and Heather Podesta have been married 11 years, and not only are they well known for their art collection; both spouses are also Democratic lobbyists who have accumulated millions in assets over the years.

The Podestas have already separated, and last year they announced, rather amicably, their divorce. However, since then, the relationship has become notably less warm.

Tony Podesta claims that his wife was seeing another man when she suggested to her husband that they should get back together. According to Tony, he made part of a down payment on a house for his wife because he believed the relationship was reconcilable.

Tony's divorce filing also claims that Heather's high income is due to his training her to be a lobbyist, and that the real estate Tony owned prior to the marriage should be regarded as separate property. In equitable distribution states like Illinois, separate property is not subject to division in a divorce settlement.

In many cases, a challenging aspect of claiming separate property is that the assets may have become comingled with the other spouse's assets during the marriage. Negotiating an equitable distribution may also involving accounting for how much each spouse contributed financially to the marriage.

As you can imagine, this kind of calculating can be exceedingly complicated and subject to debate, and divorcing spouses would be wise to seek the help of an attorney with experience in negotiating divorce settlements.

Source: The Washington Post, "Tony Podesta divorce filing: wife Heather Podesta tried to 'embarrass and harass'," Emily Heil, April 3, 2014

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