Virtually fair: online assets and divorce

Virtually fair: online assets and divorce

Our survey of over 2000 people revealed that more than half of people (55%) do not realise that a divorce settlement will include online assets such as air miles, or virtual currencies like Bitcoin.

Bitcoin may be far from mainstream, but many of us collect points: Tesco Clubcard, Boots or Avios – the travel reward scheme that also covers thousands of brands like supermarkets, restaurants and car rental firms.

Our data shows that for many people, loyalty points feel very personal, and arguably more intangible than the more traditional forms of asset such as an ISA or savings. It seems many people do not consider them an ‘asset’ that may form part of a divorce settlement.

What does the law say?

In reality, the law sees online assets as no different to any other asset, and they will be part of a settlement. A fair, final agreement must take into account everything an individual owns – whether online or in the real world.

As well as digital currencies like Bitcoin, some people have significant funds online in locations like PayPal accounts, online gambling sites or pre-paid credit cards. Times have changed, and though it may be more difficult to glean accurate information about the value of online assets, than, for example, property, it’s an increasingly important factor to consider. 

In some cases, lower value online assets such as points built up on reward cards or air miles could be genuinely overlooked as non-traditional assets. If this does occur then the Courts will possibly look sympathetically on this. That is why it’s important for solicitors to follow up with detailed questions, or else risk having online assets left out of the settlement. Although not a common practice yet, digital currencies and online assets do offer a way for unscrupulous spouses to try and hide wealth where it is not easy to see or reach.

If you would like to get in touch with Jolene Hutchison, Partner and Head of Family and Divorce, please contact her on 01494 478603 or email jfh@blasermills.co.uk