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How to deal with Bitcoin in property division proceedings

Dividing assets during a divorce can be a challenging process. Recently, cryptocurrencies have added an additional complication to the property division process. The volatility of these assets, the difficulty splitting their ownership using the blockchain and the potential to hide these assets have made them a difficult new issue in British Columbia divorce law.

Cryptocurrency, the most common of which is Bitcoin, is a decentralized digital currency. It is not produced or controlled by a central government, and can be owned by anyone who chooses to purchase it. Purchases can be conducted online or through Bitcoin ATMs. Bitcoin's value is highly volatile; its value increased by 2000 percent in 2017 but has been declining from this peak throughout 2018.

Once Bitcoin is owned, it can be placed in cold storage and there may be no trace of the ownership available publicly. This makes it difficult to track in property division proceedings. In fact, some early investors may even have forgotten they own this asset. Bitcoin is kept in a Bitcoin wallet, so although it is difficult to discover it may be possible to legally seek a link to this wallet in case of divorce.

It is a good idea for those getting divorced and their lawyers to ask direct questions about cryptocurrency and Bitcoin. Taking steps to find any hidden currency, cryptocurrency or otherwise, is important to ensure a legally sound property division. Those facing this issue in their own divorce should work with a British Columbia lawyer to clarify how this asset should be represented, valuated and considered in a divorce.

Source:, "How to address cryptocurrencies during a divorce", Garrett Horvath and Liam Cummings, March 27, 2018

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