The world has become heavily dependent on digital technology, and digital assets are now a common point of contention in divorces. When a couple shares digital assets, they are essentially the same as physical assets and subject to the same rules for division. However, this can be difficult to arrange in some situations and couples that plan to divorce and also share a lot of digital assets should know what to expect.
Digital Photos and Videos
A married couple likely has many photos and videos of their children. In most cases, it’s easy enough to divide these by simply copying everything shared so each ex-spouse has a copy. It’s important to include a provision for this in the divorce agreement; otherwise, one spouse may decide to withhold sentimental media if there isn’t a clear directive to share it.
Purchased Digital Media
Other digital media can be more difficult to split. For example, if the couple built a large library of digital movies, video games, or other media, they will divide these digital assets like any other property. If these files fall under a single account in one spouse’s name, the value of the included content factors into the property division. If each spouse had an independent account for accessing this media, they will need to split the accounts or allocate the media to a single account.
Streaming Media Accounts
Content streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video are popular, and a married couple will likely share a single account to cut down on membership costs. When the couple divorces, they will need to decide who will maintain control over the account and continue to pay for it. The other spouse will then need to purchase his or her own account afterward.
Marriage and Divorced-Related Digital Documents
It’s also important for each ex-spouse to retain copies of the documents relating to the divorce, and this includes digital copies. Spouses should also have their own copies of tax return documents and other important documentation that may be vital later. This can include receipts for major purchases, car documentation, insurance documentation, and copies of correspondence that the ex-spouses may need. Again, it is vital for the spouses to clarify these things so they are present in the divorce agreement.
If one spouse does not wish to share digital assets, he or she may have the option of “buying out” the other spouse’s rights to them, if the other spouse agrees. For example, if the divorcing couple shared an Apple Music account and spent more than $1,000 on music files during the life of the account, one spouse may offer to pay $500 to cover the other spouse’s “share” of the music and retain ownership of the account. In other cases, a divorcing couple may decide to trade digital assets. For example, one spouse retains the Netflix account while the other keeps the Hulu account. The judge handling the divorce will want to clarify the value of these assets to ensure an equitable trade.
Copying and Sharing Is Easy Today
Thanks to the abundance of electronic devices and services available today, copying digital documents and assets is relatively simple. It’s not usually necessary to fumble with physical storage devices such as hard drives and computers. Cloud storage allows you to easily copy important files to a secure cloud server for later retrieval. If there is doubt concerning your division of digital assets, make it clear during the divorce proceedings which files are important to you and make sure there is a provision in the agreement covering those assets.