Dividing Up The Vinyl Is No Longer The Problem: Digital Assets Are The New Divorce Wrinkle

Posted on: 3 July 2018

Years ago, couples who called it quits often had big fights over things like their vinyl record collection. Music lovers who had amassed a large, expensive collection would quarrel over whether an artist's work should be divided up and who should get the rights to which recordings.

These days, divorcing couples may find themselves arguing over who get the rights to the joint iTunes account -- especially if there's several thousand dollars' worth of music inside. Digital assets are rapidly becoming a big hurdle for couples who are trying to divide things fairly. Here's what you should know.

1. Digital assets aren't tangible, but they do have value as marital property.

It doesn't matter whose name the digital assets are in -- anything of value that's acquired after a marriage begins has the potential to be considered marital property. Unfortunately, it's often easier to split tangible assets up between a divorcing couple than it is to divide digital ones. Depending on how much value your digital assets have, this could become a big issue in your divorce.

2. You should take an inventory of all your digital assets before you start negotiations.

You can't negotiate a fair division of the marital assets unless you have a good idea of everything you and your spouse hold together. Start making a list of all your digital assets for your attorney, complete with account names and passwords. Include things like:

  1. All purchased media accounts, including music, movies, television shows, and books. This includes things like the iTunes account, movies in Amazon or Vudu, and digital books in the Kindle account
  2. Gamer accounts, like Steam, which may hold both purchased games and monthly subscriptions to licenses
  3. Streaming digital accounts, like Netflix or Hulu, which charge monthly fees for their service (when ownership of and payment for those accounts needs to be resolved)
  4. Digital photo and video accounts, including those like Photobucket, which may contain countless family photos and memories 
  5. Digital documents from the marriage, including tax returns and bank statements 
  6. Cryptocurrency accounts, like Bitcoin 

On the bright side of things, many digital accounts keep clear records of purchase dates -- which means that it may be easy to determine what was acquired before the marriage began and what was acquired after. 

3. Prepare to turn over what you can turn over easily.

Don't make it hard on your spouse -- or yourself -- to manage the separation of your digital assets whenever possible. Get a USB drive and make copies of everything you know that you can simply copy and turn over -- including family photos and tax returns. A goodwill demonstration can go a long way toward easing tensions and resolving conflicts over the remaining digital assets.

Some couples may have thousands of dollars invested in their collection of movies, music, books, and games. Some may have significant investments in cryptocurrency. All of those things have a value that needs to be determined before a fair division of assets can take place. It may even be necessary for one spouse to eventually "buy out" the other when assets can't be transferred, so don't underestimate the importance of this issue in your divorce.

For more information, contact your divorce attorney.