Property division in a divorce can become as contentious and stressful as any other aspect of the process. In today’s world, however, dividing marital assets may be even more complicated than ever before. With more and more people owning digital property, many divorcing spouses have questions regarding how division works in this particular area.
Whether the issue concerns physical assets or digital property, a person going through a divorce can benefit greatly from having a legal professional at his or her side, but qualified help is especially important when it comes intangible property
What Are Digital Assets?
Generally speaking, a digital asset is a piece of property that does not exist physically. In most cases, a digital asset was not purchased or acquired with the intent for the owner to retain a tangible or physical representation of the property. Digital property most often includes electronic versions of music, books, music, and video games. Such property may be maintained on distribution servers or programs like Steam or iTunes
Video games, in particular, are becoming greater concerns when it comes to property. Twenty years ago, for example, video games were sold primarily in physical form—as a cartridge, CD, or other tangible media. In recent years, game developers have primarily shifted to an online, downloadable format, often with a monthly subscription or access fee. Online roleplaying games, such as Second Life and World of Warcraft, not only cost money to play monthly but also have their own purchasable assets in the game, which are often forms of digital property.
The online video game sector continues to boom and it currently generates tens of billions of dollars each year. As cell phone technology keeps pace with desktop and laptop computers, the trend is not likely to slow down anytime soon.
Dividing Digital Assets
Despite having no physical form, a digital asset is treated the same as any other property during a divorce. Digital property must be classified as marital or non-marital, assigned a value, and if it is marital, considered with other assets to be divided. Of course, it is virtually impossible to split an online video game account, and dividing an iTunes or Kindle library may not reasonable either, but digital assets must be accounted for in the property division process. This is most often accomplished by offsetting the value of a digital asset with other marital property.
For example, assume you created a Steam account during your marriage and purchased $1,000 worth of games, while, together, you and your spouse amassed $1,000 worth of songs, apps, or movies on iTunes. It would not be unreasonable for your property settlement to allow you to keep the entirety of your Steam account and to give the entire iTunes library to your spouse.
Professional Legal Guidance
If you are considering a divorce and you are concerned that digital assets could complicate the proceedings, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney. Call 630-426-1866 or 630-945-8807 schedule a confidential consultation at Pucci Pirtle today.