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Ask Slashdot: Dividing Digital Assets In Divorce? 458

Posted by timothy
from the don't-forget-your-malware dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I am a long time Slashdotter and currently find myself in the beginning of a divorce process. How have you dealt with dispersing of shared data, accounts and things online in such a situation? Domains, hosting, email, sensitive data backups and social media are just a few examples."
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Ask Slashdot: Dividing Digital Assets In Divorce?

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  • Blegh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ModernGeek (601932) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:29PM (#39065109) Homepage
    You shouldn't have destroyed your individuality by combining all of these things. If you hadn't, maybe you wouldn't be getting divorced.

    I'm only saying this so that others may learn from your mistake.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Generally true, but things like data backups - that's a little trickier to keep separate. Otherwise the examples given are things that should remain separate (email accounts! Duh!!)

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:34PM (#39065203)

        Can't you simply make copies?

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 16, 2012 @05:10PM (#39065823)

          Apparently, you've never seen a spy movie. Of course you can't! There's just the one disk and that's it!

        • by hal2814 (725639) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @05:13PM (#39065863)
          No! That's stealing! You wouldn't steal a car. You wouldn't steal a policeman's helmet and go to the toilet in it... would you?
        • by Ced_Ex (789138) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @06:04PM (#39066603)

          No.

          Destroy everything leave nothing to your spouse. Divorces are never pretty.

          Pyrrhic victory for the win!

          • by cffrost (885375)

            Pyrrhic victory for the win!

            Pyric victory for the win! [alphachemicals.com]

          • by Derkec (463377) on Friday February 17, 2012 @01:22AM (#39070917)

            They're never pretty and are frequently ugly, but really don't have to be all that bad.

            I'm divorced (and now happily re-married!) and while painful, the divorce wasn't ugly. We hired a lawyer together to help us through the paperwork. If you're cheap, there are also forms at Staples. The lawyer was well worth it. I kept most of the furniture and cut my ex a check in return. I had stuff, she had some cash, we were both ok and clear of any alimony claims. I probably could have fought and paid a little less to my ex and a whole lot more to lawyers.

            Remember that at the very least you once loved that other person. Treat eachother with some respect, and part civilly. It's strange when you're called, "a model divorcing couple" but a million times better than going to war.

            • by IceNinjaNine (2026774) on Friday February 17, 2012 @09:36AM (#39073161)

              I'm divorced (and now happily re-married!) and while painful, the divorce wasn't ugly. We hired a lawyer together to help us through the paperwork.

              and

              Remember that at the very least you once loved that other person. Treat eachother with some respect, and part civilly. It's strange when you're called, "a model divorcing couple" but a million times better than going to war.

              Some days I read Slashdot and think "Wow.. sometimes it *is* good to be a geek".. (translated: many of us here have a bit of introspection). It's good to read this. My own divorce (a dissolution actually) was finalized late last year. We were husband and wife techies, and split everything right down the middle. She didn't want the house (being an engineer she wanted mobility for her career), so she received more cash than she normally would have. Are things weird in the aftermath? Yes. Are there hurt feelings? Yes. Do we hate each other? No. That being said, I'm glad we did it.

              Had we gone to war we would have burnt through 15k a piece in legal fees, MINIMUM. Our combined total using one attorney was 2500 bucks. With kids it probably would have gone up by a factor of 2-5x.

              Two things of note to the young'ns out there: I once read that in reality you should be at least 27 years old before marrying (there's some sort of psychological and brain development still occurring up to that point), and if you marry and start to have problems, do NOT do what a few of my moronic (okay, misguided) friends have done and said "Oh, this sucks.. but.. let's have kids and try to make it better." That's right, I've seen it more than once: people think that having kids will be a FIX for a marriage that's not working... and it's not.

      • Re:Blegh (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ganjadude (952775) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:36PM (#39065231) Homepage
        Simple solution here is to have separate backup files of separate data. How hard is it to set the routine to make a backup of "robs documents" and another of "debs documents"?
        • Re:Blegh (Score:5, Insightful)

          by PlatyPaul (690601) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:42PM (#39065333) Homepage Journal
          This implies that your spouse is OK with the idea of making these backups in the case of potential divorce.

          Implying that it could/might happen is dangerous, my friend.
          • by g0bshiTe (596213)
            With as inexpensive as computers are these days, why is there need to share one computer with another person. The data is separate you take yours, and I keep mine.

            Otherwise if OP is the one making the backups, then OP should be the one to keep them. Most likely it won't even be brought up in the papers, other than who gets the physical item.
          • My computers have user accounts for convenience: I use my computer differently from my SO and guests. These same computers automatically back up home directories to separate spots on the backup drive, because they're different folders. This is just basic home computer/network stuff, no ulterior "planning for never seeing these people ever again" crap.

            Did you have a spouse who honestly thought that you were planning for a divorce by keeping separate backups? I use the past tense because it's very obvious tha

        • Re:Blegh (Score:5, Funny)

          by mr1911 (1942298) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @07:29PM (#39067621)

          Simple solution here is to have separate backup files of separate data. How hard is it to set the routine to make a backup of "robs documents" and another of "debs documents"?

          If my wife knew about Deb that would make the divorce inevitable and immediate.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        "Generally true, but things like data backups - that's a little trickier to keep separate."

        How? Her backups go to //nas1//backup/wife_laptop my backups go to //nas1//backup/My_laptop

        Pretty darn easy to keep them separated. Also It's easy to deal with the photos cache, just make a copy onto a portable drive and be done with it all.

    • Re:Blegh (Score:4, Interesting)

      by owenferguson (521762) <(owenferguson) (at) (hotmail.com)> on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:34PM (#39065199)
      I'd second that. My wife and I always had completely divided online personas, and still do. Shared assets like domains would be split based on the separation agreement, no? As for shared data, each party gets a full backup. Maybe change your passwords if you've shared them with your spouse. I know that I regretted telling my wife my email password when she started to use it as the password for other sites she signed me up for online (FetLife, for example.) We had a long talk that day about the importance of not re-using passwords on multiple sites; she was convinced that there was no way for website owners to see the passwords that their users put in. Thankfully, Lulzsec came along a few years later and vindicated my paranoia...
      • by g0bshiTe (596213)
        Why lulzsec, just create a fresh pass of something md5'd then brute force it with cain show her how simple it is to recover.
      • It depends on whether there was a marriage contract or not, and also when the assets (for example, the domain names) were acquired, as well as their purpose.

        Domains that were acquired as a hobby and have no pecuniary value go with the person who is listed on the whois, unless that person was listed just for conveniences' sake - then they should go to the real owner.

        Domains that have a financial value that were acquired before the marriage generally stay with the person who brought them into the marriage, same as other assets generally (YMMV, of course, depending on local laws, etc).

        Domains that are worth $$$ that were acquired during the marriage in the course of business stay with the business. So, it's all about how each party is compensated for their contribution to the business. Does one party buy the other out, or just get a share of the business itself if it's a multi-million-buck operation (not likely)?

        WARNING: Many places have special laws concerning copyrights staying with the original author even if the material was created during a marriage (it does not become part of the "partnership" assets)! The question rarely came up in previous decades, so most divorce lawyers are totally clueless about this.

        • by Chrisq (894406) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @05:33PM (#39066161)

          WARNING: Many places have special laws concerning copyrights staying with the original author even if the material was created during a marriage (it does not become part of the "partnership" assets)! The question rarely came up in previous decades, so most divorce lawyers are totally clueless about this.

          In the UK its really complex. Generally individually held copyrights belong to the individual (though you may have to pay a proportion of the proceeds), but if held by a business they are split-able - even if the business is a sole proprietor. So if you run a computer business the work you did for that then the copyright could be split but if you developed something as a hobby you can't lose it.

      • by billcopc (196330)

        This.

        I can think of only two digital "assets" that are shared with my partner. One is her domain name and web site, which could be trivially moved to her own registrar account and cheap/free hosting. The other is our media server. If we ever split up, I'll just set her up with a hard drive or modest NAS box and copy any movies and TV shows she wants to keep. Depending on where you live, this may or may not be in breach of copyright law.

        Other than that, and for non-digital assets as well, we are two indi

        • by devilspgd (652955)

          More complicated is the johnandmelinda@ type email addresses and other stupidity that less-techie types do without realizing how annoying this is to everyone else.

          After 1-2 rounds of emailing "John" with a "Hey John, want to do $something on $differentdate instead of $originaldate" and getting back a "Sorry hun, John isn't home, this is Melinda" and never getting a reply from John at all, you simply cease interacting with either of them because together they're too stupid to be worth it.

          However, it's not a

    • by tnk1 (899206)

      One of the reasons for marriage, one of the pragmatic ones anyway, is being able to buy things and share them. This creates cost efficiencies. I mean even the RIAA and MPAA isn't going to sue for sharing with your wife.

      • Re:Blegh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by foo1752 (555890) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:38PM (#39065273) Homepage

        I mean even the RIAA and MPAA isn't going to sue for sharing with your wife.

        Yet.

      • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:46PM (#39065391) Journal

        Sorry, this is flawed in a lot of ways.

        In a sense there is no economic advantage between just living together as lovers and being married. One funny example used to be that the standard deductions of one Head of Household and one Single, both triggering on lower overall brackets was cheaper than the married rate on combined income, and other tricks.

        Then there's the very real cost of the alimony/child care process. Guy starts out with house, guy should end up with house. But watch the number of times she gets it.

        Or the kids. Woman starts out poor, woman has a kid, woman divorces two years later, woman keeps kid, woman gets payments GREATER than they would have spent together on the kid being frugal.

        Plus the copyright angle of making "full backups" of database based assets is hysterical.

        • by superwiz (655733) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @05:06PM (#39065755) Journal

          Guy starts out with house, guy should end up with house. But watch the number of times she gets it.

          Even if she gives up a career to raise the guy's children? If there is a specialization of roles in a contractual relationship, then one side may have an advantage if the contract is severed. This is why people sue for breach of contract. Well, marriage is also a contract.

      • by Nadaka (224565)

        I missed "with" on the first read through.

    • by decep (137319)

      Individuality is highly overrated, snowflake.

      http://www.despair.com/individuality.html [despair.com]

    • Re:Blegh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by couchslug (175151) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:38PM (#39065267)

      Bingo. The secret to long relationships is not being mingling everything.

      I've been with the same woman since 1985. All we share is an Ebay account in my name, and if we part it will be immediately terminated.

      I would keep personal copies of ALL data, then go "scorched earth" on everything else. Dump the domains and hosting, splatter formal divorce notices all over all social media in they way they are posted in newspapers (no emotion, just legal facts), and shut down/delete any joint activity. Close all joint accounts, change passwords where appropriate, and in general do "best practices" for employee termination.

        If there are large assets in play, see a lawyer.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        " and in general do "best practices" for employee termination."

        Wait, have her escorted from the building? Freaking genius man!

    • Re:Blegh (Score:5, Funny)

      by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:38PM (#39065271)

      I'm only saying this so that others may learn from your mistake.

      So says Forever Alone guy! Yes, it's a mistake to trust anybody. By trust nobody you can ensure your heart remains perfectly safe and you, perfectly alone. This guy decided to take a risk, and yes, maybe in this one case it didn't work out for him, but at least he tries to have someone in his life who's last name isn't JPEG.

      • I'm only saying this so that others may learn from your mistake.

        So says Forever Alone guy! Yes, it's a mistake to trust anybody. By trust nobody you can ensure your heart remains perfectly safe and you, perfectly alone. This guy decided to take a risk, and yes, maybe in this one case it didn't work out for him, but at least he tries to have someone in his life who's last name isn't JPEG.

        This has nothing to do trust. I trust my parents with my life, I don't share my accounts with them. Not because I think they would do anything wrong with them, merely because it's not theirs. You can love someone, trust someone, and be with someone without giving up your individuality in favor of being a single entity called a "couple". Any partner who doesn't understand that I need to have a life separate from hers is not someone I want to share my life with...precisely because she wouldn't be asking m

    • by crutchy (1949900)

      destroyed your individuality by combining all of these things

      wtf does that even mean? in Australia at least, if you live with a woman for 6 months, she owns half your assets by default (unless you got a good lawyer or have a pre-nup).

      In any case, its wrong to get married with the condition that you get to keep all your stuff if you divorce. Pre-nups are stupid; it's like saying "I love you dear, but I expect we'll get divorced someday".

      If you get screwed in love and you lose out, the lessons are that love can sometimes hurt and that women are expensive. Duh!

      • by Nadaka (224565)

        And I think the idea that a woman gets half your shit for hanging around for 6 months is stupid. Prenup is the only way to go if you have any assets at all.

      • by MBGMorden (803437)

        wtf does that even mean? in Australia at least, if you live with a woman for 6 months, she owns half your assets by default (unless you got a good lawyer or have a pre-nup).

        In the United States such a thing is referred to as "common law marriage", but it's not part of the law in every state in even in the states where it is, the legal requirement is much longer than 6 months (don't know if it's the norm, but in South Carolina the term is 7 years together).

        As to prenups being stupid, I have to disagree. They're not an expectation that something will wrong - they're protection in case something DOES go wrong. Same applies to any type of insurance. I have term life insurance

    • Re:Blegh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:45PM (#39065361)
      A good compromise is coming to an agreement where both sides are unhappy.
      Sell them to the highest bidder. Then split the money. If you can't sell it destroy it.

      shared data: Delete it... Or make a duplicate copy of it...
      accounts: Close them and make yourself new ones.
      Domains: Sell it to the highest bidder and split the cash.
      hosting: Copy the data split it if you can, make duplicate copies and delete the rest. Then cancel your hosting.
      email: Shared Emails what are you some type of idiot... Well email everyone with your new email and cancel your old one.
      sensitive data backups: Divide what is yours and what is hers. If you both need it you make a copy of it.
      social media: change your relationship status.

      Being however had asked such a stupid question I would expect what will happen is your ex will get it all. As you are either really dumb or gullible, to share such items... Or you are so dense that you can't realize that digital data can be copied.

      However if you have any common sense you are going to remember to try to be fare with your divorce. If your not, you will be the bad guy.
    • by icebike (68054) *

      You shouldn't have destroyed your individuality by combining all of these things. If you hadn't, maybe you wouldn't be getting divorced.

      Or at least they wouldn't be getting divorced this early. Had they not shared email or cell bills, someone might have gotten away with what ever they were up to for quite a bit longer.

      But in other respects, you are spot on. If you can't trust a spouse to have a separate email, facebook, music, ebook, movie account then that person should probably not be a spouse in the first place.

      Apart from sharing a cell account to get a substantially cheaper rate, other things like movie and ebook accounts are drop dea

  • easy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:29PM (#39065119)

    burn it on a dvd and call it a day

  • Shared data (Score:5, Funny)

    by xlsior (524145) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:32PM (#39065167) Homepage
    How have you dealt with dispersing of shared data

    If only there were a way to make multiple copies of digital information...
  • If yes, just tell your lawyer that number. Don't have a lawyer? Stop wasting time asking the Internet for advice and get one.

    Secondarily, do they sentimental value? Most courts are willing to take that into account as well.

  • Shared accounts?!? I'm married, and as a principle, we have no shared accounts. All other data can be simply duplicated, as that is the nature of data. You have this problem because of sloppy identity management. Talk it over with the Ex, if that still is an option. As for domains and hosting, well, also a talking point, I'd say.
    • by karnal (22275)

      I had to combine my accounts when my wife lost her job years ago. Makes planning for the family much easier if one person has a hold of the purse strings, in my opinion.

      • But shared email accounts?
        I use gmail my wife uses yahoo... And we really don't care what each other uses.
        Because it is free email account.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:33PM (#39065183)
    Just been through this myself. My solution was to let her keep all the photographs, videos, accounts, etc etc. So I get a clean break, and no unwanted reminders in the future of a very dark period of my life. Seriously, you should at least consider the benefits of leaving it all behind, and letting the past stay in the past.
  • Wow. (Score:5, Funny)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:33PM (#39065191) Homepage Journal

    That was the most round-about way ever of saying "My parents are throwing my 38 year old ass out of the basement."
  • Work around it. If it's something you absolutely need for work and the like, you're just going to have to play nice and share. There's plenty of couples who still talk and get along better after divorce, so just avoid trying to absolutely screw each other over in the meantime. As for file based things that aren't account based, I'm sure you're already in the process of making copies.
  • by GodInHell (258915) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:34PM (#39065215) Homepage
    Seriously, this is a terrible question for the /. community. You're going to get mocked, and maybe told that you shouldn't have married him/her/it if you didn't want to give him/her/it 51% of everything you own (round-up errors).

    More seriously -- it's all about classifying property. Depending on state law, you may be able to retain individual ownership of some accounts / and anything business related, like a domain for a small business. Any interest you have in a company is likely to get split in half, if the company owns the digital assets then the ownership is derivative. If you have domain names you need for work, consider asking your spouse to consent to a flat evaluation at the price of registration -- create a corporation/LLC for your business identity and trasfer the assets out for good value.

    Else -- SEE YOUR LAWYER.

    -GiH.
  • I'm not really trying to sound like an ass, but if you merged your email addresses, you're on your own.

    Foresight. Use it.

  • You'll have to wait for the Redigi case to play out. If the courts decide that downloaded music can't be sold used, they might also evaporate in a divorce. One downloaded song certainly can't be used by both parties after they separate.
  • Is most of that really shared? I guess having a shared email account makes a kind of sense, but not really.
    If you have a combined email account/Facebook account you cannot really just have one person take over the use of them. I think your divorce has rendered such things as worthless.
    Other things on that list come off as something you can continue to share.

    But at the end of the day it is all a case by case scenario. What are you expecting? /. to come out and say: "ah, Domains, well obviously those always g

  • I went through a (by all counts HORRIBLY messy) divorce myself, some years ago. But at that time, despite both of us being avid "computer people", there was no such thing as "social networking" websites or "cloud storage".

    I'm not even sure there was much in the way of "digital data" we felt we needed to divvy up?

    As I think about this now, though, I think it does make yet one more strong argument against DRM. It would have been a much bigger hassle if all of my purchased music, video content, or even digital

  • by Fubari (196373) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:48PM (#39065425)
    Some (possibly obvious) points for you to consider:
    If the "digitial assets" have significant monetary value: ask your lawyer. (the "digital assets" probably have low monetary value, or you wouldn't be asking about them here.)
    If the "digitial assets" have significant sentimental value: burn yourself a copy, hand them over to your future-ex, and sincerely say "Thank you for the wonderful memories."

    (Just out of curiosity on my part, what kind of advice did you expect to get without actually describing the nature and value of the "digital assets"?)

    Lastly, consider this: how important is it for you to win?
    Divorces can be ugly. I've seen friends destroy each others sanity and inflict long-term damage on their souls in order to "win" and "be right"
    Five years from now, would you rather be busy enjoying a new chapter in your life or sipping daily from a nasty glass of old & bitter resentments?
  • Unlike all other assets, which she gets... technical assets go to the one who can manage them, which is usually you. Otherwise, you can try to divide them down the middle, or to something you agree on. Good luck with that.
  • I always wanted to know how to divide future revenue (after the divorce) for IP that was started but not completed before the divorce. I had thought to just give each party a copy of the IP to finish as they see fit. The alternative is that one party finishes the work and the other party reaps the benefits. This later case seems unfair.
  • by manonthemoon (537690) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:52PM (#39065507) Homepage

    when my 12 yr old grows up and moves out a lot of the games, but not all, were bought more for his benefit. I don't mind getting logged out occasionally now since he'll generally ask since he's in the house anyway. But when he moves out and 1/2 way across the country, potentially, co-ordinating the use of a single account will be a pain. I'll probably have to create a 2nd account for my exclusive use, since most of the money is tied up in his games...

  • Domains - the name listed in whois is the owner of record.

    Hosting - the name listed on the account. The other party should get their own hosting account (any pre-paid hosting should be pro-rated at 50% to the other party).

    email -for each PAID email account, the name listed on the account is the owner. For freemail accounts, you don't "own" them anyway, so each of you just get a new account already - it's not like it costs anything - then set the auto-responder in the freemail account to give both your new email addresses, then give the account login info to someone in trust who will change the secondary contact info and login to something random. Or give it to the kids (if any).

    data - you each own your own data, as per copyright. Whoever created the original data, they own the rights to the backups as well. Be nice - share anything that the other person is in, such as pictures, since they also have a right to those. Exceptions: "intimate" pictures - give them to the person who is in the picture and destroy any other copies - don't you even think of "sharing" those without permission, and you'll end up with a police record, same as Libby [last name redacted]'s ex boyfriend did when he "shared them" with her parents, grandparents, etc.

    social media - why is this a problem? Social media accounts are not "property" and you do not "own" them, as per your contract with whatever provider you're using. If this is about a "family" account, each of you create an account under your own name, post a note on the family account pointing to the new accounts, then as part of the agreement the family account is either nuked, or given to a 3rd party in trust who changes the contact information and password, then deactivates it.

    It's a divorce - the two biggest words are move on. None of the stuff listed above is worth fighting over 99.999% of the time.

  • by BenderX (2576081) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @05:04PM (#39065733)

    If you can copy it (CDs, MP3s, data on cloud storage), each person gets a copy.
    If it's locked down with DRM (iTunes) assign a value and divvy up along with physical assets.
    If it's a photo from your time together, put it in an archive directory called "/poisoned" and never open that directory again.
    Most email accts and social media are per individual, but if not, just let it go and start fresh.
    If it's critical to your future (the domain for your business), cover it in the divorce decree.

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