Cryptocurrencies are here to stay so you might as well learn about them. If you’re married, it could be financially beneficial to understand any involvement your spouse, with or without you, might have with this new financial asset class.
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT CRYPTOCURRENCY
Why should you care about cryptocurrency like Bitcoin? Because cryptocurrency can be very valuable community property and hidden from you when it’s time for you to divorce and divide your community assets.
What is cryptocurrency? Cryptocurrency is a digital cash system without a central authority. It is a decentralized system. Cryptocurrency is digital currency.
In 2018 this relatively new digital cash system known as the cryptocurrency market is expected to reach a total value of $1 trillion. According to data from businessinsider.com, the market cap of all cryptocurrencies stood at over $700 billion on January 3rd of this year.
Bitcoin is the leader of all cryptocurrencies. It is based on a blockchain. Blockchain is considered a technology that is changing the way people transact business. Blockchain technology allows us to make transactions without any central review body.
Bitcoin currently has the top cryptocurrency market cap at $140,905,000,000. That’s more than a hundred and forty billion dollars in Bitcoin alone. At the time of this writing, the price of one Bitcoin is $8,269.48.
Roger Ver, CEO at Bitcoin.com, calls Bitcoin technology one of the most important inventions in all of human history. “For the first time ever, anyone can send or receive any amount of money with anyone else, anywhere on the planet, conveniently and without restriction,” Ver says. “It’s the dawn of a better free world.”
It’s the dawn of a better free world if you know where all the community Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency your spouse bought are. But, you know, sometimes they get lost. Other times they get hidden out of plain view, which means you don’t know about them.
There’s a lot of money out there in a lot of cryptos – at least $700 billion worth – and some of it might be yours. Cryptocurrency can be held in any number of ways. It can be held in virtual wallets and offline wallets. Your best friend can be holding the profits derived from his Lite Coin purchases in his girlfriend’s aunt’s maid’s name. Your spouse could be holding her Ethereum cryptocurrency stash overseas in a business partner’s name – a business partner you’ve never even heard of.
Bitcoin has been defined as, “A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.” It is considered a cryptocurrency because users can pseudnonymously transfer money directly to one another, peer to peer, without the use of a middleman like a bank, governmental authority, or Western Union. It’s called pseudononymously because users are assigned a string of numbers as their Bitcoin wallet address where they store their Bitcoins.
The problem in family law is that divorces become contentious and spouses sometimes don’t want to play by the rules — instead choosing to hide assets from their spouse that might otherwise be subject to equitable division in a marital settlement agreement.
Any specialist in family law you hire in divorce should routinely request discovery as to all cryptocurrencies that your spouse, and thus the community, might have an ownership interest in, whether you are aware of any being purchased during your marriage or not. If your spouse has suffered what he or she calls large gambling losses, or large amounts of money are found missing from community accounts, you’re going to want a forensic accounting to locate all suspected missing community assets.
Cryptocurrency can be traced back to a single spouse’s separate property just like any other tracing of a community property asset. It’s just that some assets are more difficult to trace than are others.
There are forensic analysts who specialize in tracking cryptocurrency and they can work to connect Bitcoin wallet addresses, for example, with the users’ actual identities. If large amounts of money are being transferred to a cryptocurrency exchange where cryptocurrencies are being purchased, this must be financially accounted for as well.
Same thing for the discovery of large cash withdrawals or transfers that were used to purchase cryptocurrency at peer-to-peer points of sale like localbitcoins.com. If it can’t be determined where that cash went, and your spouse doesn’t produce evidence re what he or she was doing with that cash, you will want an accounting thereof that leads to an equitable division of the community assets that were lost to you due to your spouse’s unauthorized withdrawals that led to the dissipation of community assets.
BOTTOM LINE IS TO SEARCH THEN SEIZE
Once you find the missing monies invested in hidden places, you have to get them out. That’s your family law specialist’s job, and that’s not always automatic. You might need passwords, usernames, and mnemonic seeds. If your spouse has played in the cryptocurrency market without you, it is possible your spouse has hidden a cache of profits derived from cryptocurrency business transactions in accounts under pseudonyms, other persons or business names, or they could have been transferred abroad.
If your divorce specialist has to go to court in an effort to retrieve hidden assets, your attorney will need to make a clear showing of how the money was transferred from a bank account or from some other community property asset to purchase the community cryptocurrency assets in dispute. When you hire a specialist in family law they can move the court for orders to exert pressure on your spouse to give up control over the hidden cryptocurrencies, and if that is not honored, the court can order an unbalanced division of community assets that will account for your share of the missing cryptocurrency.