What Happens To Your Digital Assets In A Divorce?
Digital Assets Library That Can Be Divided In A Divorce Process Include Kindle, iTunes, Xbox Live, Games, Apps And Other Digitally Downloaded Media
Traditionally, when dividing assets in a divorce, each individual looks to their assets obtained during the marriage. When these assets are identified, the process of dividing those assets up then runs its course. Today, with the constantly changing technological field, assets are not merely tangible objects anymore. For example, your iTunes library is not a tangible asset, yet it does have value and you did spend money to amass this library. Even though this asset is not a house, car, jewelry, or even cash, it’s still considered an “asset.” It also doesn’t matter which spouse maintained the library, or who actually purchased the digital assets; as long as they were obtained during the marriage, they qualify as “marital assets” which means they’re treated no different than a car or any other tangible asset.
Well, let’s say you share this music library with your spouse. What happens when you go through the divorce process? This concept has been somewhat of a grey area due to the relative newness of this consideration. Recently, divorce attorneys are being educated about this subject of digital assets. This training includes methods for discovering and valuing these assets so they may be adequately divided in a divorce proceeding.
Once these assets are identified and valued, attorneys and their clients can go through the process of deciding who and how each spouse will divide them. The problem arises through digital media rights and user agreements. Take for example, an iTunes account. Apple often limits the amount of transfers and devices that downloaded media can be used on, and surely they’ll have a fit if you’re attempting to divide the songs between accounts. These types of situations are settled through good lawyering and client cooperation.
For example, an iTunes library is normally not the only type of media that is included in digital assets. Other types of digital assets can include Kindle libraries, World of Warcraft accounts, Xbox Live accounts, PlayStation Network accounts, apps and games downloadable on iPads or other tablets, any types of digitally downloaded games (becoming more common now), and other types of digital media that can be amassed through time and money.
After these assets are valued, attorneys take the time to decide who wants what and who should get what, the same way assets are divided with tangible goods. Once these requests are made, judges may award assets in lieu of other assets (i.e. you may receive your World of Warcraft account, while your ex takes the Kindle library).
Technology is forever changing the world around us. Divorce attorneys need to become aware of these implications that spill over to the divorce world. Inquiring about the existence of digital assets is the first step as a lawyer. If you are going through a divorce and have an iTunes library or other digital assets, be sure to mention them to your divorce lawyer. Making sure to include the division of valuable, non-tangible assets, can help clients better transition into their new “fresh start” following a divorce.
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.