The Digital Divide: When Assets Reside Online

Dividing physical property during a divorce can be difficult enough. What happens when the assets are digital?

Technology has changed the way we interact with life, and with each other. Facebook is occasionally blamed for divorce and online dating websites provide fodder for contentious divorce and custody litigation.

Connecticut is an equitable distribution state, meaning that jointly owned property is divided fairly between divorcing spouses. The identity, location and value of each asset is important. When assets reside online, that information may not be readily available, or it may not be applicable. Problems arise when an item’s value does not tangibly exist in Connecticut or any other physical location.

Common types of digital property include the following:

  • E-mail addresses, websites and domain names that may have personal or commercial value to one or both spouses. The commercial value of a web site or blog may be significant in terms of advertising or other revenue.
  • Online content like photographs, music and other products that may be subject to terms of use on the websites or cloud on which they exist. Service terms may not allow for the content to be shared or divided during divorce.
  • Virtual goods, which are a growing type of digital property. Virtual gaming on sites like Second Life or Farmville offer users opportunities to earn and own valuable objects that translate to physical currency. Sites like [edition] sell original digital artwork that can be difficult to value and divide during divorce.

If you or your spouse has amassed significant digital property and you are approaching a divorce in Fairfield County, it’s important to consult with an attorney about how to count these items as part of the marital estate while protecting their value during asset division.