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Dividing cryptocurrency pursuant to a California divorce

Technology is forcing Americans to expand their vocabularies and consider advancements that once may have seemed fanciful to them. One example of a relatively new tech-driven concept is cryptocurrency, better known by its more recognizable brand name: bitcoin. Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are used online by consumers to transact, make purchases and complete deals exclusively through the Internet.

Ownership of cryptocurrency is not something that every Californian will achieve. Values given to a single bitcoin skyrocketed to around $20,000 in the last year, though now one bitcoin has dropped in value to $6,000. Like other forms of assets, though, cryptocurrency can become a point of contention if a married couple decides to divorce and divide their shared wealth.

Valuation of cryptocurrency is one of the issues divorcing parties may run into when negotiating for the settlement of their property division. The volatility of a bitcoin's value as noted above may make it challenging for a party to determine if allowing their soon-to-be ex-partner to keep the cryptocurrency is fair.

Also, identifying ownership of cryptocurrency can also be problematic. While in the past it was not uncommon for individuals to try to hide assets and wealth from their spouses in international accounts, now a divorcing party may be able to acquire cryptocurrency without their spouse's knowledge and effectively bury their wealth in the online web.

Property divisions have never been easy, but cryptocurrencies may make the process of splitting marital assets even more complex. It can benefit individuals who own these emerging assets to work with attorneys who stay ahead of legal complexities such as this.

Source: Bloomberg, "Bitcoin Bitterness Starts to Make Messy Divorces Even Worse," Hannah George, Feb. 26, 2018

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