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The unexpected questions in property division


One of the hardest aspects of a divorce is often determining which spouse gets what from the marital property. In fact, the issue of property division can be so divisive that spouses splitting on amicable terms could even find themselves in a trial disputing ownership of certain assets. While it may be easy to anticipate some legal struggle over the obvious major assets, say over ownership of the family home or motor vehicles, it often happens that major disputes occur over assets that many spouses did not even consider when first entering into their divorce.

As one common example of these unintended disputes, consider the issue of credit card loyalty benefits or frequent flyer miles with airline companies. These are not assets that many individuals think about how they will split, but in many cases they represent significant financial benefits. Not only that, but many individuals also feel a personal connection to these assets. Oftentimes air-miles are kept in storage by one individual, thinking they would be able to use them for a special occasion, not considering the possibility that they could lose them in a divorce.

Furthermore, one of the spouse sometimes accumulates these assets more so than the other. Consider a spouse who flies frequently for work or personal reasons. These individuals likely feel a connection to the earned air-miles, having personally sat through all of the flights.

When determining how to split these assets, it can be helpful to figure out how the rewards can be claimed. Some rewards programs offer cash payments rather than the bonuses. These assets can be cashed out and then split in the divorce proceeding. However, some rewards programs are not transferable under any circumstances, including divorces. In many instances this means that the loyalty benefits will be considered assets which are then matched up in the settlement process for something of equal value. Like all family law issues, determining this monetary value of certain assets and financial rewards can be difficult. However, it can be helpful to have the advice of an experienced attorney.

Source: Forbes, "Divorce: Who gets the air miles?," Jeff Landers, June 26, 2013

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