Digital Assets in Divorce: Dividing & Valuing

The tough economy has put many marriages in a pressure cooker. Financial problems take their toll on relationships, and often can make it difficult to work out marriage troubles. Some don’t want to stay married, but can’t afford to get a divorce, either. With the economy looking a little less bleak, it’s possible that an upswing in divorce is on its way. The ability to afford a divorce attorney and real property stabilizing in market value, division of assets may now be more promising – but what happens to digital assets?

Being so new, there is little precedent to determine how couples divide their digital assets such as ebooks, music, airline miles, or online business. Online accounts and libraries pack a punch when avid collectors join forces and cannot be overlooked during divorce. Unlike the past, it is no longer feasible to sell off or pack up your things. Slightly more complicated, the digital era has given the courts more to fights to settle.

The laws on property division and marital assets are all that Pennsylvania courts have to guide during equitable distribution. Determining whose libraries are whose and which of those are marital will be the likely method. A user agreement may limit or restrict the transfer of ownership of digital asssets. A judge cannot override that fact, but may divvy up other assets in exchange.

Beyond media accounts, there have been disputes over highly coveted frequent flyer miles in recent cases. Although Pennsylvania is a no-fault state, the spouse who utilized the account the most may be entitled to the majority of points on the account. This may be transferrable for a fee, unlike the media property.

Then there is the difficulty of valuing and dividing an online business. More and more couples are setting up shop from home and creating a digital asset in this manner. Shared efforts toward building the site, like adding blog posts or monitoring traffic, can be considered marital. Just because there is no brick-and-mortar store front does not restrict an online business from being subject to equitable distribution in Pennsylvania.

In an ever changing society of digitization and sharing, our ability to divide digital assets over the coming years is sure to present new challenges. Incorporating this change into Pennsylvania divorce laws may become an inevitable result. As other cases and precedents are set, couples will have more structure and clearer expectations. Until that time, it is best to seek experienced legal advice from a Bucks County divorce attorney before dividing any digital property. Contact our office today to discuss your case, at (215) 942-2100 or submit an inquiry.