The internet lets us do our banking, investing, creating, trading, shopping, studying, and many other things from the comfort of our own home. In fact, in today’s fast-paced digital world, a large part of our lives is online whether we want it to be or not. Many times, the digital world can make our lives more convenient and simplify tasks. It also opens up a variety of new opportunities on a personal and professional level. As such, many individuals have a large digital asset portfolio. These portfolios can consist of everything from investments to trademarks and numerous things in between, and it is extremely important to understand how these digital assets come into play during a Florida divorce.
Types of Digital Assets
Digital assets refer to far more than just services and procedures that can be conducted online. Virtually everyone today has some form of digital asset. While most people will not forget about bank accounts and investment portfolios, some common types of digital assets that can easily be overlooked when it comes to inventorying property and engaging in asset division negotiations include:
- Digital music libraries like iTunes;
- eBook libraries for devices like Kindle;
- Digital gaming libraries;
- Digital movie libraries;
- Frequent Flier miles; and
- Internet sites, among others.
These types of digital assets can play a much larger role in property division than you may have thought, especially when it comes to digital assets that produce income or have significant value.
Start with an Inventory
As with other aspects of asset division in divorce, it is important to create an inventory of your digital assets. Each spouse should create their own asset inventory, including a digital asset inventory. This can help you identify potential problem areas over assets that both individuals claim an ownership interest in. Identifying such assets can also help you determine where to focus your energy when it comes to negotiating the division of your digital assets.
Transferring Digital Assets
While there might be some situations where sharing digital assets is a possibility, it is not a good idea. Most digital assets cannot be split in half. You cannot split a song from your library in half, nor will a digital book that you only retain one half of be useful. In those situations, sharing is not even practical. However, some platforms allow things such as family sharing between individuals within a household. Retaining the ability to share these assets can cause more of a headache than just working with your attorney and your spouse to divide the asset, especially since personal credit information is often stored on digital services and it is unlikely you would want to provide an ex-spouse with personal financial information or the ability to make purchases with your financial backing.
Instead, working to divide and transfer these assets is usually the best approach. This may not always be as easy as it might seem as many services have strict rules and regulations regarding the transfer and/or sale of assets purchased from them. There can be extensive legal considerations to keep in mind, and as with any aspect of asset division it is important to determine a fair market value for any assets you are considering transferring in order to approach a property division settlement in a more informed and disciplined way. You may also find that frequent flier miles are important to you and not your spouse while his or her music collection is simply not something he or she can part with.
Income-Generating Digital Assets
There may be situations in which a digital asset, such as a website, could produce financial gain for one or both spouses. Depending on the level of income generated, this can produce a great deal of conflict when it comes to determining how to divide the asset. Can one spouse continue maintaining the website on his or her own? If so, what is the value of the other spouse’s ownership in that asset.
These types of questions can have a much larger impact on other areas of asset division than you might think. For instance, if the spouse eligible to receive spousal support payments is also going to take an income-generating website that provides a substantial amount of income, then there may be room to negotiate regarding how much spousal support – if any – should actually be paid. Likewise, an income-generating asset that produces enough cash flow may be a negotiable item when it comes to determining what to do with larger assets like vacation homes and vehicles.
An important and often overlooked type of income-generating digital asset is referred to as a virtual asset. In many multiplayer formats, players can generate income from providing goods and/or service via the online platform based on a number of different factors such as a person’s specific expertise. These might be considered marital property even if only one individual engages in this kind of activity. An experienced Florida divorce attorney can help you understand more about exactly what types of income-generating digital assets might qualify as marital property as well as what that classification could mean for the asset and for you.
Legal Assistance with Digital Assets
As with all property division, there are important consideration is digital asset division that can easily be overlooked. Working with an experienced Florida family law attorney that understands the many nuances of Florida asset division, including those related to digital asset division, is an important step in making sure that your rights are protected.
You want to be confident in knowing that you are making informed decisions about all of your property, digital and otherwise. If you are considering divorce and have questions about asset division, including those related to digital asset division, contact Scott J. Stadler to schedule a consultation and find out more about what an asset division agreement might look like in your circumstances as well as the role he can play in helping you achieve one.