Dividing digital assets in divorce proceedings

By Lenore Rice

The division of marital assets is one of the main elements of divorce proceedings, as both parties endeavour to separate their inevitably entwined lives and prepare for the future.

The most common types of assets that come to mind when thinking about divorce are property, valuables, and money. Divorce proceedings will establish what happens to the family home, as well as any other tangible assets acquired during their marriage which will have to be divided in a suitable fashion.

These assets are all related in that there are tangible assets that can be divided between the parties or attributed to one party or another. There may be some debate as to who gets them, but the assets themselves are fairly straightforward. The question arises, though, as to what happens with intangible assets?

The march of innovation in recent years has meant that many of us have a substantial amount of digital assets, ranging from movies and music to video games, and while intangible these assets still have value as marital property.

What are digital assets?

Digital assets may include:

  • Any purchased digital media such as digitally downloaded video games, movies, television shows, music, and books
  • Any purchased media accounts, such as iTunes
  • Any digital streaming accounts, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Spotify
  • Any gaming accounts, such as Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Steam, or Twitch, which may contain digitally downloaded purchased games and subscriptions to other services.
  • Any digital photos and videos
  • Any digitally stored documents, especially those related to the marriage and/or the divorce
  • Income-generating digital assets, such as websites or blogs
  • Any cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin

How to go about dividing digital assets

In order to ensure transparency and maximise cooperation, both parties should create their own digital asset inventory. This will help maintain an easy to follow log of everything that needs to be divided, and also help highlight any potential problem areas related to assets that both spouses claim interest in.

Sharing digital assets can be tricky because of their intangible nature, but there are plenty of ways to make things run smoothly so that all parties are satisfied with the outcome.

Many divorcing couples, especially those with children, will have an attachment to sentimental items such as photographs and videos. Helpfully, these digital files can be easily copied so that both parties have a copy. This also applies to any of the abovementioned documentation that may be required to be shared.

For assets which are harder to effectively divide, particularly in the case of digital downloads of games and movies which are tied to a specific account, there can be an option for one spouse to ‘buy out’ the other as long as both sides agree.

Accounts themselves can prove difficult to divide, especially popular streaming accounts for services like Netflix. Chances are a married couple will only have one Netflix account, and so the decision needs to be made as to who will keep control of the account and maintain future payments and who will no longer have access to the account.

How Wilson Nesbitt can help

As with all things related to divorce, there is a lot to think about and things can easily be overlooked. It can certainly be overwhelming, and this is where good, professional advice really comes into its own.

Our expert team of divorce solicitors are on hand to guide you through any and all aspects related to the divorce process, including establishing an agreement for the separation of assets in a way which is suitable for all parties.

We recognise that each relationship breakdown is an individual set of circumstances, and our team will work with you to complete all the court documentation and carry your divorce through to a successful conclusion so you can move on.

It is important to note that, in a sense, the law is still catching up to technology. While we will be able to offer expert advice and mediation regarding  the general division of assets, this advice will not be specifically catered to digital assets such as those mentioned above.

If you wish to take the next step, please call us on freephone number 0800 840 1363, or reach out in writing via the Contact Us form on our website.