When a couple decides to get a divorce, they must also agree on how to divide the property they have accumulated throughout their marriage. This includes money, personal property, real estate, stocks, and nowadays, the list also involves the possession and value of digital assets.
How money and digital assets are divided depends on the law of the state where the divorce takes place, but it generally follows one of two systems: community property or equitable distribution. In community property states, any property obtained during the marriage is usually divided equally between the spouses. In equitable distribution states, on the other hand, spouses get a fair divide of the property, but not necessarily an equal one.
Deciding how to divide assets can be quite challenging even in the most amicable cases – so it can get especially complicated in contentious ones. So much so, that arguing about money is the top divorce predictor among couples, making it a potentially delicate issue to deal with in divorce proceedings. On that note, let’s look at how money and digital assets are divided in a divorce.
Despite having most of our lives online, it’s common to get confused about all of the things that fall under the digital asset umbrella. While you might only be thinking about what happens to Bitcoin in a divorce or how to divide your virtual currencies, there are several commonly held digital assets you should consider. These include:
- Cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin;
- Shared social media accounts;
- Digital documents and photos;
- Digital libraries of books, games, etc.;
- Frequent flyer miles.
In the increasingly digital world, couples should carefully consider how to divide these assets in a divorce. NFTs, cryptocurrencies, and social media accounts all carry a certain monetary value or have earning income potential, so they should be treated with the same gravity as any other property.
Getting Started: Create A List
When settling the financial part of divorce proceedings, both parties need to disclose their financial positions, including their bank statements, property, and valuable items. Failure to disclose any assets can lead to sanctions in court, so you are always advised to provide a complete and thorough list. Digital assets can often be overlooked at this stage, so a great way to keep track of them is to create a separate digital asset list.
As you would do with your physical items, you should consider creating a ‘digital inventory’ that contains all of your digital assets. Each spouse should list all shared digital property and compare it with their partner to ensure everything is included. It might be beneficial to write the list in order of importance, either by monetary or sentimental value. This practice will help both you and your solicitor in further negotiations.
Dividing The Assets
It’s important to consider any current and future value of your digital assets. For instance, blogs or social media accounts that generate significant amounts of money need to be disclosed and entered into the calculations of your financial records. The same rule applies to cryptocurrencies and other valuable holdings. The cryptocurrency market can be volatile and unpredictable, so you should obtain regular valuations throughout the financial proceedings.
Since digital currencies are also harder to trace, there is a greater possibility for hiding these assets. Cryptocurrencies are virtual and anonymous, so there are no bank accounts or statements tied to them, which may lead to one spouse being unaware of their partner’s possession of such funds. If you suspect this to be the case, you may ask your attorney to ask or look for such information during discovery or acquire the help of a digital forensic expert.
If you know the precise value of all items on your list, you can go through them in order of importance and decide how to split them between you and your spouse. Some digital assets may only hold sentimental value, so dividing them may be as simple as ensuring each partner has a copy of the photos. Still, some may be more difficult to assign, as music or film collections and frequent flyer air miles cannot be physically transferred or shared. In these cases, you may need to consider who will keep the asset and how to compensate the other spouse for its value.
The nature of the division will depend on the agreement between spouses and the state where the divorce takes place, but before such decisions are made, both spouses need to disclose the full value of their assets. Calculating the total value of your assets will also make it easier to handle all financial aspects of the divorce, including child support or alimony.
Dividing money and digital assets in a divorce can be an extremely complicated process, especially in more emotionally charged cases; knowing how to navigate these proceedings can be helpful to both you and everyone else involved.
Before you begin, you should consider all digital assets in your possession. You will be required to compile a list that reflects your financial situation, including a digital inventory. Once you’ve determined their exact value, you will reach an agreement with your spouse – and depending on the state where you are getting your divorce – to ensure a fair and mutually accepted division.