Couples who appreciate art may spend decades building their collections of original work. When this type of marriage ends in divorce, however, property division quickly becomes complex.

If you are facing divorce and have developed a sizable art collection with your spouse, take these steps before seeking professional valuation.

Take careful inventory

Texas is a community property state, which means all property is subject to equal division in divorce. If you acquired pieces before the marriage, the court will consider these items separate property if you can prove the purchase date. An item just one spouse received as a gift or inheritance also constitutes separate property.

Create a file that details each item in your collection, its title, its location, the purchase date, the purchase price and notes that may affect its value, such as condition. Wherever possible, support the purchase price and date with receipts, invoices, contracts and other documentation.

Find an experienced appraiser

Even art you have purchased within the past few years could have dramatically changed in value. A professional appraiser can establish a fair market value for each piece in your collection for the purposes of legal property division. Ideally, this person should have experience valuing rare items and be able to deliver expert testimony in your divorce case if called upon to do so.

Negotiate a fair settlement

Before taking your case to court, you may want to work with your spouse to fairly divide your art collection. For example, if you each have a few favorite pieces, you can agree to keep those in exchange for others that your spouse prefers. When you cannot agree, the judge will make a determination. Often, he or she will require the sale of rare or high-cost art that is difficult to value accurately. The couple then splits the proceeds evenly.

Keep in mind that if a piece of art that constitutes separate property has increased in value during the marriage, your spouse may receive half of that amount in the divorce settlement.