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How are digital assets divided during divorce?

In today's world, digital assets have increasing value in almost every aspect of people's personal and financial lives -- which means that they're also increasing in importance during divorces.

What exactly is a digital asset and what happens to shared accounts during divorce? Here's what you should know.

The basics of digital assets

Digital assets include services you receive online or any type of holdings, including:

  • Movie collections, like those through Vudu
  • Frequent flyer miles that have accumulated
  • Online gamer accounts, like those at Steam and Twitch
  • Digital libraries, including those on Kindles
  • Digital music, including iTunes accounts
  • Digital photos, including those at Photobucket and other storage sites
  • Cryptocurrency accounts for Bitcoin and others
  • Software bundles that are used for productivity, like Paintshop Pro or Word
  • Social media accounts held for business partnerships
  • Digital documents, including financial records

While some of these things may sound fairly insignificant, there are actually many couples who have thousands of dollars invested in things like their digital music collection. Similarly, an account piled full of frequent flyer miles can have a significant cash value.

Dividing digital assets

Where couples once had to figure out how to split up their vinyl collection or divide CDs, the new issue is how to divide assets that can't easily be divided. It's often not possible to simply transfer digital assets, like game codes and music files, to a new account in order to divide them up. That means that one spouse will likely retain the collection, while the other should be compensated.

Some digital items do lend themselves easily to copies -- including photos and financial documents. It's often wise to prepare a USB drive to hold everything that needs to be duplicated and turned over.

Income-generating digital assets that were owned and operated as a couple, like a blog or social media account, may be much harder to split. It may take careful negotiations to determine which spouse is likely to benefit the most from the asset and what equals fair compensation for the other.

If you're approaching a divorce and digital assets are involved, you want to get prepared by making an inventory of all the digital assets you share, no matter whether they are in your name alone or your spouse's. That will help your divorce attorney prepare a plan for a fair division of the marital property.

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