Cryptocurrency is an asset like any other kind of asset, and as a result, it may be considered separate property or marital property. What many people do not understand is exactly how complicated this can become.
Cryptocurrency is a type of code or software that dictates how a unit of currency is produced and regulated. Essentially, the creator of the cryptocurrency makes the units using an algorithm that relies on cryptography to secure the currency. The most common cryptocurrency, and the first of its kind, is Bitcoin, but there are thousands of other types that can be purchased or earned.
Despite Bitcoin and Crypto prices being extremely volatile, (the recent Crypto crash being a prime example), cryptocurrency is gaining in popularity and becoming a more and more common asset seen in divorce cases.
Crypto and Divorce Trend
Cryptocurrency has gone from an obscure hobby to a significant investment for many people across the country. As crypto assets like bitcoin rose dramatically in price, many investors became wealthy, especially those who entered the crypto market in the early days. However, cryptocurrency can also add new complications to a divorce, particularly when it comes to dividing assets between divorcing spouses.
Here’s a look at some commonly asked questions about cryptocurrency assets in a divorce.
Q: What is Cryptocurrency and is it Considered Marital Property?
A: Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency that allows secure transactions on the internet without having to go through a bank. Bitcoins can be exchanged or traded for other currency, products, or services and have increased in use since their creation in 2008. With this increase comes new challenges in a divorce when it comes to dividing up assets.
Cryptocurrency is considered an asset and as a result, it may be considered separate property or marital property. In some cases, growth in the value of cryptocurrency during the marriage may be considered a marital asset, even if the original purchase took place before the marriage.
This is especially true when both spouses were involved in using cryptocurrency, investing in crypto assets, or planning to rely on crypto to fund future financial ventures. If you’re a crypto investor considering divorce, you should always consult with your lawyer about how you can expect your investments to be affected by the separation.
Q: Can You Lose Bitcoin in a Divorce?
A: Bitcoins are treated the same as any other asset in a divorce. If the bitcoin transaction was before the marriage, was given as a gift or through an inheritance, it is not marital property and cannot be divided. Therefore, if the transaction was during the marriage, it is marital property and can be divided.
When bitcoins are considered marital property, the easiest way to divide them is to split the determined value 50/50. Since most bitcoins can be cashed out in full, splitting the value 50/50 means each spouse would simply get half.
Another way to divide bitcoins is by negotiating other marital property in exchange. This means, if the spouse with the bitcoins wants to keep them, they can give up other marital property with the same determined value to the other spouse.
Q: Can Cryptocurrency Be Used to Hide Assets During Divorce?
A: A misinformation gap can easily arise especially when only one partner is involved in the crypto market and the other spouse has little knowledge on the aspects of crypto investments. This gap can lead to one partner not knowing what to look for when it comes to uncovering crypto holdings in the asset division process.
The growing awareness of cryptocurrency technology has led to more divorce attorneys thinking about how to deal with crypto as a way of hiding assets. In some cases, a spouse may suspect the other party has undisclosed crypto holdings, while in other cases, they may notice that the other spouse suddenly seems to have a source of funds that is not tied to their existing employment or investments.
There are several ways that cryptocurrency assets may be discovered. The best-known and easiest to uncover are bitcoin and ethereum. Other cryptocurrencies may offer higher levels of anonymity. Those assets are much less valuable and more volatile than the better-known digital currencies. A forensic expert typically brought in by the parties, may search for cryptocurrency tickers, login credentials for exchanges, or keys for certain types of digital wallets.
Bank statements, credit card statements, and other financial documents may indicate transactions for crypto purchases from various exchanges.
During a marriage, it’s important for both partners to have an understanding of their marital income, and investments. With greater knowledge about finances shared between spouses, it can be far more difficult for one person to hide assets during a divorce.
If you are concerned about how your or your spouse’s cryptocurrency assets could affect your divorce or the asset division process, Masters Law Group can help. Our team of highly trained and experienced family law attorneys are here to answer your questions about divorce and digital asset division.