Photographs and Memories

Famous clothing designer, Karl Lagerfeld once said of photographs, “What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.” Mr. Lagerfeld captured in that simple quote what it is we humans love so much about photographs; capturing moments.  Until scientists are able to recreate a time machine, photographs and home videos are the only way we can go back in time to relive moments.

And nothing is more sentimental than photos of our children.  Looking back at a time when they were so small and brand new. Seeing pictures of them, with their faces full a joy and happiness, is like watching the journey of their life.  It recalls the cliché “how did they grow up so quickly,” but also preserves those moments in time for ever.

But is this intrinsic sentimentality, invaluable to you, worth anything in a divorce?  The answer is yes.  Photographs and videos are assets of the community that must be divided.  The value, in dollars and cents, is nominal but that does not mean this is an issue you can ignore. This often overlooked issue can be a cause of significant strife between parents.

I always make the following suggestion to clients that they reach a deal with regard to the family photographs.  I suggest that each party is awarded one-half of the family photos.  The half they are awarded is given to the other parent who is charged with copying the photos and videos.  Once both sides have copied the photos and videos in their possession, they turn over the originals to the other party and keep the copy they made.  In this way, the cost is split and there is an incentive to ensure a full set of copies is made.

There are several vendors in San Diego that will take loose photos, photo albums, or framed photos to scan them and preserve them.  There also needs to be a discussion about how the copies will be delivered.  The copies can be digitized and delivered on a disc/thumb drive, or they can be reprinted and delivered as a hard copy.  I always suggest to clients to accept the digital copy.  It costs less, requires less storage, and allows you to print the photos you want in any size.

A more difficult issue is scrapbooks.  Inevitably one parent will have a vested interest in keeping the scrapbooks.  This is commonly the parent who painstakingly designed and created the scrapbooks. Though more expensive than digitizing old photos, there are vendors in San Diego that can copy scrapbooks.  These companies were created to safeguard scrapbooks in case of fire or other damage, but they work just as well in a dissolution.  I suggest to clients that after they have the scrapbooks digitized they bring the photos to Shutterfly or other photo book maker and have a hardback book made of the scrapbook.  While it may lack the depth of a well-designed scrapbook, it is a very close second in terms of look and presentation.

This issue is however becoming a bit dinosaur destined to go extinct.  Other than very special photos or portraits, people do not keep their photo collections in albums or books.  Photographs and videos, now taken mainly on cell phones, are neatly stored on a computer hard drive.  Making copies of these photos is as simple as dragging them to a flash drive. That does not mean this is not an issue you can overlook.  It is important that you make sure you discuss this issue with your attorney if it is important to you.  Remember, other than the standard issues that are important in every case, we learn what is important to you from listening to you.  If you don’t tell us something is important, we will assume it is not high on your priority list.

Feel free to contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding division of community assets. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

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