How to Divide Digital Assets With a Milwaukee Divorce Lawyer

May 22, 2024 Divorce

Divorce can be a complex and emotionally challenging process, especially when it comes to dividing assets without Milwaukee divorce lawyers helping you with child custody/child support, property division, or other family law matters in Milwaukee, WI. In today’s digital age, assets extend beyond physical property to include digital assets like cryptocurrency, mobile payment accounts, streaming media accounts and even music and movie downloads. In Milwaukee County and other areas of Wisconsin, like in many other states, navigating the division of digital assets requires careful consideration and understanding of the law and divorce mediation with experienced divorce attorneys.


Understanding Digital Assets from a Divorce Attorney

Digital assets encompass a wide range of items, from cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and Ethereum to social media accounts such as Facebook or Instagram. Many married couples going through an uncontested divorce or contested divorce share social media accounts and access to streaming apps even during a legal separation. They often share music and photo libraries or online media subscriptions. People can also have substantial funds parked in money transfer apps such as Venmo, PayPal, or CashApp. These assets hold both financial and personal value, making their valuation and division a crucial aspect of the divorce process that should not be overlooked.


Disclosure and Valuation

The first step in dividing digital assets in family law cases is identifying them through a full financial disclosure to a family court commissioner. In Wisconsin, both parties of family law issues must provide a comprehensive list of all assets they own individually or jointly with others—including all digital assets. Valuing these assets can be challenging, especially with the volatility of cryptocurrency markets. However, there are ways to estimate the value of cryptocurrency by using online calculators. Parties with significant digital investments can seek a formal appraisal from a cryptocurrency valuation expert. Assets such as music libraries or streaming apps may have a more nebulous value based on anything from sentimental value to the practical convenience costs of recreating a new or separate account with a similar digital inventory. Seeking professional assistance from financial experts or appraisers may be necessary to determine the fair market value of digital assets accurately.


Finding Hidden Digital Assets With Family Law Attorneys

Assets that are not readily disclosed might still be identified through creative investigation or the formal discovery process of subpoenaing digital account administrators. For example, if you suspect your spouse may own digital currency, you can request information about common cryptocurrency trading platforms such as Binance or Coinbase. You can also examine charges on their bank statements or tax documents since income from cryptocurrency is taxable income much like gains or losses from other assets.


Dividing Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency presents unique challenges in divorce proceedings due to its decentralized nature and anonymity. To divide cryptocurrency fairly, spouses must agree on its value and decide how to distribute it equitably. Options include selling the cryptocurrency and dividing the proceeds, transferring ownership of specific assets, or offsetting the value of cryptocurrency against other marital assets. 

Valuation of digital assets is less important when the parties agree to divide the assets equally. In an equal division, the parties get equal value. But if one party is keeping a disproportionate share of the digital assets or if they are using the value of those assets to compensate for or offset the value of other property being divided, it is very important to have an accurate valuation of all assets.


Social and Streaming Media Accounts

Social media accounts often contain personal and professional connections, making their division more complicated. Streaming media apps are also very personalized—containing a well-trained algorithm to make suggestions curated for your specific tastes. In some cases, spouses may agree to deactivate or delete joint accounts and create separate ones. In other cases, one party may agree to “buy” a specific account from the other party at a negotiated value. However, for accounts with significant value or influence, such as those used for business purposes, determining ownership and access rights may require negotiation or court intervention.

Placing a value on digital media can be completely subjective and dependent on such considerations as how much you spent to acquire the media, how much you paid for your subscriptions, how much it would cost to re-purchase or replace the digital media or even sentimental value and attachment. 


Wisconsin Divorce Laws

In Wisconsin law, divorces are governed by equitable distribution laws, which means that marital property is divided fairly but not necessarily equally. Marital property includes assets acquired prior to or during the marriage, including digital assets like cryptocurrency and social media accounts. 

Navigating the division of digital assets in a divorce requires specialized knowledge of both family law and technology. Consulting with a qualified divorce attorney who understands the complexities of digital assets can provide invaluable guidance and advocacy throughout the process. An experienced attorney can help spouses understand their rights, negotiate fair settlements, and ensure compliance with Wisconsin divorce laws. With some creativity, flexibility, and the right guidance it is possible to find a fair solution that benefits both parties of uncontested divorces or contested divorces.