Counting the Miles (And Other Hidden Assets in Divorce)
It is well known that when parties divorce, there will be an equitable distribution of the marital assets and debts that the parties acquired during the marriage. Many people also know that it rarely matters whose name that the asset or debt was acquired in.
I cannot stress enough that the preparation of a financial statement, or a Case Information Statement, is perhaps the most important step of the entire divorce process. Getting bank balances and mortgage payoff statements is easy, and tasks that no one thinks twice about. However, there are other assets, or benefits in a marriage that are easily overlooked, and can result in an inequity to a spouse if not considered.
Most of us have a credit card (or two, or three) that accumulate miles which can be traded in for airline tickets, hotel points, or some ability to trade points for something of value.
In some families, the ability to accumulate miles is enhanced by the ability of a spouse to use a credit card for work and seek reimbursement from an employer. This results in one spouse attaining the ability to travel which may not be available to the other spouse after the divorce is over. It can also result in an inequity when one parent has the ability to take children on vacations using miles which the other parent does not have.
If one party has a significantly higher income, they will undoubtedly have the ability to have credit cards with higher credit limits, or more credit cards which further boosts the ability to accumulate these miles and in a significant way, enhance that party’s post-divorce lifestyle.
Compiling a history of miles as well as the family’s use of the miles throughout the marriage is something that litigants should be doing when preparing a case. A successful argument for additional support based in lifestyle may turn on the ability to show the past practices of the parties in use of the miles. Moreover, this may impact responsibilities of parents for expenses for children of college age. If one parent has access to miles when a child is at college far away, should this not be a consideration when determining responsibility for travel expenses for holidays and summer breaks?
In addition to the points and miles mentioned above, timeshares are an important asset to consider. All too often, the resale value of a timeshare is far less than what was paid for it, so it is overlooked. However, the fact remains that the value of being able to use the week in the Caribbean still holds value, particularly for a former spouse who might not otherwise be able to take two children on the type of vacation experienced during the marriage.
There are also employment benefits that should be considered. Many jobs provide long term employees with insurance benefits for life after meeting a certain length of employment. If one spouse will have insurance costs and the other will not post-divorce, this needs to be considered as well.
Money that people owe a party is another category that is often overlooked. Countless times a family loans money to a relative and it is forgotten when in the midst of a divorce, or assumed the debt will never be paid. Just because collection is iffy doesn’t mean it should be overlooked.