The Division Of Digital Assets In A Houston Divorce
Many Houston couples in the midst of a divorce are aware that marital property like homes, stocks, and money will be subject to property division. In addition to these tangible objects, however, many divorcing couples also own digital assets with significant value that should also be considered at the time of divorce. These digital assets can include several types of property, including social media accounts, blog, digital currency, and even digital music or video accounts. Courts in Texas, however, have failed to sufficiently develop laws that apply to these digital assets. Without a very defined body of law, when digital assets must be divided between couples, a talented divorce attorney is often essential to help determine how parties should respond to question of which spouse owns the rights to digital or virtual assets.
The Difficulty Of Dividing Digital Or Virtual Assets in Houston
Many digital or virtual assets obtained during a divorce are viewed by Texas courts as marital property that is subject to property division. The exact methods of property division in these types of situations, however, are often uncertain. The division of digital files, such as files in an iTunes library, for example, is particularly challenging because individuals who use iTunes own a legal right to use these files but do not outright own these assets. Because only an iTunes file’s user is allowed to use that product, property division issues become quite difficult.
A Proposed Method For Digital Or Virtual Asset Division
Last year, the Dallas Bar Association proposed one method for dividing digital or virtual assets, which includes:
- Identifying The Asset. The first step that a divorcing couple should take is determining whether any digital or virtual assets constitute marital property.
- Determining Whether The Asset Was Acquired During A Marriage. In the state of Texas, courts tend to apply the same techniques and law used to determine whether more tangible assets are marital property to digital assets.
- Deciding The Value Of the Asset. This step is particularly challenging because some digital assets have little monetary but significant emotional value to individuals. In cases where a digital asset generates income, this revenue is considered shareable and frequently divided among a couple in a manner similar to more tangible property. If both spouses contributed to the value of a digital asset, courts of law tend to view this asset as a value that is also subject to property division.
- Choosing How To Assign Or Divide The Asset. Determinations of how to divide digital assets are significantly influenced by an asset’s value. In the case of assets that are of little or no monetary value, divorcing couples have a great deal of discretion in determining how the property is divided. In some cases digital assets, like airline miles or membership points, might be capable of being transferred between couples. The user agreements for many digital assets, however, strictly forbid individuals from transferring assets. With non-transferrable digital assets that are considered marital property, courts of law frequently divide this property in a manner similar to more tangible items.
Reasons To Contact A Knowledgeable Houston Divorce Attorney
As technology improves, an increasing number of married couples have expensive digital assets, which can often cost thousands of dollars to replace. If you are involved in a Houston divorce and desire assistance in protecting digital or virtual assets, consider contacting a knowledgeable Houston divorce attorney at Conner & Lindamood, P.C.