When most couples consider divorce, one of the first things they think of is how they are going to divide their marital property. How will they divide retirement, brokerage, and bank accounts, as well as the family home and business or investment properties? In recent years, another type of asset has hit the radar—digital assets.
Digital assets cover a variety of categories: personal, social media, financial, and business. Some digital assets may be more easily divided than others. Perhaps a divorcing couple can just share copies of all the personal photos they have each stored on their personal accounts for Google Photos so both have all the photos of the children growing up. But what do they do with the website that they built together that has a unique and sought-after domain name? The domain name alone could be worth a lot separate and apart from the business that it represents.
Social media assets can include personal Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts, but they may also include a business presence on one of those sites that could potentially hold considerable value. Maybe one spouse has started a Facebook support group for a rare disease that their child has that has gained 10,000 followers. The potential value of such a presence may be obvious to one spouse and not the other. Of course, the spouse who created it may even be ignorant of its potential value if marketed unless one of the attorneys suggests that it may have value and asks the question.
Financial accounts and business accounts may hold assets in the form of “miles” or “points” that have significant value. One client may even own “money”, avatars, or virtual property in online games that could be marketable or valuable. Again, this may be obvious to one spouse and not the other who is not into online gaming.
Couples that choose the collaborative divorce process to deal with such assets often have a better chance of having these issues addressed more equitably since part of the contractual agreement that a couple signs when they choose to use the process requires the parties and their attorneys to share all relevant information with the other side whether it is requested or not.
For the spouse who may not be as knowledgeable about the value of that domain name or the gaming avatar, this could make a big difference in the final agreed divorce decree that is negotiated.
As a client considers which attorney to hire to represent them in a divorce, it is wise to ask a few questions about the attorney’s comfort level with digital assets. Does the attorney recognize that an online gamer may have digital assets? Does the attorney ask about possible digital assets—online accounts, miles, bitcoin accounts, business websites, domain names that either spouse may have purchased whether currently in use or not? If the attorney doesn’t touch on this topic and this may be a concern, how does the attorney respond when asked about the potential value of these assets? Does he/she dismiss it or suggest taking a closer look.
For anyone considering divorce in Austin, it would be wise to at least interview an attorney who is a member of Collaborative Divorce Austin and is comfortable discussing digital assets. For a list of attorneys to consider, you may review attorney profiles at CollaborativeDivorceAustin.com.