Last June, we wrote a blog outlining what marital property is in a divorce and what you can expect as far as the division of property throughout the divorce process. It was all pretty straightforward and simple: how the house, the cars, and any monetary assets are all split once you and your spouse decide to split.
But there are a few less obvious items that you and your soon-to-be-ex may possess that can sometimes be forgotten or overlooked early on in the divorce. If neglected, these items could lead to court battles later on. Over the years, lawyers in our firm and other lawyer’s in our network have seen some admittedly unusual property disputes during divorce cases. And not over the stuff you’d expect, like the house or the money. These items can be easily broken down into two categories: tangible assets and intangible assets. Below are some of the “funnier” examples we’ve collected over the years:
Unusual Tangible Assets
- Gifts given during marriage: for example, a leather jacket believed to have been cursed with bad juju. Neither party wanted it (for good reason); they were arguing over which person should be stuck with it.
- Pets or other animals: while we at Ferrante and Dill don’t consider pets property (they’re more like children, right?), the courts in Maryland see things a little differently. And unfortunately, they are one of the most commonly overlooked “tangible assets” during a divorce. So, please, before you get to arguing over that cursed leather jacket, think about what is going to happen to Mary Puppins and Mr. Meowgi first.
- Collections: Pro tip: DO consider your Precious Moments figurines collection as part of your marital property early on in the divorce proceedings. DON’T replace your soon-to-be-ex-wife’s Precious Moments collection with a collection of Trolls dolls because you can’t agree on who should get them (true story). Other “collections” you should consider before things have the chance to get hairy (pun intended): guns, action figures, bowties, Thomas Kinkade paintings, Christmas ornaments, Tupperware, pots and pans, cords of firewood you may have split together (also a true story).
- Photographs: In the digital age, photographs are an easy enough score to settle. If you already have a digital copy, get an extra one to the other party as soon as possible; if you don’t, get yourself a scanner and scan a copy of the photo(s) in question.
Unusual Intangible Assets
- Frequent Flyer Miles: Yes, the frequent flyer miles you racked up (whether separately on a business trip, or together on a vacation) are divisible marital property. Consider them beforehand, unless you’re okay with the thought of your ex flying free to Fiji while you’re stuck paying a cool thousand to sit in coach.
- Tax losses and carryovers: If you’re privy to a tax loss or carryover that might be coming to you or your spouse in future years, it would be wise to note that as divisible property early on. A tax carryover or carryforward refers to applying the unused portion of a tax deduction or credit from a previous year to a future year’s tax return.
- Patents and Goodwill: The idea to invent an umbrella for dogs or a toaster that toasts a selfie into the bread may not have been yours, but if your spouse came up with the idea during the course of your marriage, it may be subject to equitable distribution in a divorce. Patents and goodwill from a business owned by you or your spouse both count, too. So you can go ahead and call BS on your spouse if they are a sole proprietorship and try to tell you that when they leave, the business will go with them.
- MP3’s, Digital Downloads of songs, movies, etc.: This is a more expensive deal than you might think. Since Copyright laws forbid you from legally sharing digital copies of music and movies, there is no way to divide them between two parties. You either get to keep your digital copies of Titanic and the Original Broadway Cast recording of Annie, or your ex does. There’s no sharing them. So if you have an expansive digital music and/or movie library, you might want to call dibs on it sooner, rather than later. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay to replace each movie and each album.
We could go on…but hopefully now you get the point.
Divorce is painful enough. Splitting up the house, the money, and time with the kids is emotionally draining on everyone involved. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be by squabbling over the smaller, more material aspects of your time together as a couple. Many seasoned attorneys agree that when it comes to arguing over the Precious Moments collection or the amassed DVD collection, it’s more about a separated couple’s psychological need to fight than it is about the items in question. Bottom line: take the time to consider even the smallest things early on in your divorce agreements, in order to avoid a mounting headache in the end. Be sure you’re working with an experienced and knowledgeable divorce attorney who can help you pinpoint what some of those items might be ahead of time. For more information on family law or dividing unusual assets, give our Family Law attorney and partner Jennifer Dill a call today at (410) 535-6100 or send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.