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Dos and don'ts of dividing digital property in a divorce

Dividing property can be the most complex and contentious part of a divorce. Not only is there money and property on the line, but the resulting agreement can have a tremendous impact on a person's financial stability after a divorce.

Further, there are various types of property that are difficult to divide. Digital property, for instance, can create conflict and confusion during a divorce because it is intangible and people often overlook it. Below are some suggestions for what to do and what not to do if you have digital property to divide.

Dividing digital property dos

If you have digital property, do:

  • Keep a thorough list of the properties, including cryptocurrency, monetized social media accounts, photos and online stores.
  • Keep track of access and location information to make it easier to avoid practical hurdles.
  • Consult your lawyer and/or other professionals when it comes to valuing or categorizing digital property.
  • Change personal account passwords and disconnect from shared accounts to protect your privacy.

Dividing digital property don'ts

On the other hand, do not:

  • Oversimplify the division process. Canadian laws affecting ownership and privacy may be less clear or informative than you expect.
  • Try to hide or undervalue assets.
  • Undermine the importance or value of digital property. Some analysts estimate that an average Canadian currently has up to $2,000 in online property, with that number growing to more than $10,000 by 2020. 
  • Wrongfully block a soon-to-be ex's access to shared accounts or access his or her accounts without permission.

In some respects, dividing digital assets is very similar to dividing tangible property. If it was acquired during a marriage, it likely is subject to provincial division laws.

However, because digital property is not tangible, and because the laws addressing virtual assets are quite complex and relatively new, there are unique and confusing obstacles that can arise when it comes to dividing them.

As such, it is important to proceed with caution when it comes to dividing digital property in a divorce. As with any part of the divorce process, missteps and improper assumptions can cause costly problems parties would rather avoid.

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