California’s community property laws demand that all marital assets are divided equally during a divorce. With the complexities involved in dividing a household and what may amount to many years of acquired assets, you might think dividing airmiles is the least of a divorcing couple’s problems; however, the question of what happens to airmiles during a divorce is a surprisingly contentious issue for many divorcing spouses.
For people who traveled frequently during their marriage or used joint credit cards with air miles as a rewards bonus, these valuable points may add up to a substantial sum. Often, the spouse who traveled more frequently believes the points belong to them, but according to California divorce law, the airmiles accumulated during a marriage are part of a couple’s joint assets and subject to division.
What If My Airmiles are My Individual Property?
Airmiles accumulated during marriage become part of a divorcing couple’s California property settlement agreement. A settlement agreement is a mandatory contract dividing all assets acquired during a marriage — including airmiles — equally. During negotiations for dividing property, your Los Angeles divorce lawyer can argue on your behalf for what assets should be considered individual property rather than part of the marital assets.
Individual or separate property includes all assets and debts you owned before your marriage or after your separation as well as any gifts or inheritances you acquired even during your marriage. If you acquired your airmiles before your marriage or after your separation your attorney can argue that they are separate property and not subject to division. However, if a significant number of airmiles accumulated during the marriage they are community property.
How Do We Divide Airmiles?
If you accumulated airmiles during your marriage, California considers them marital property even if you primarily traveled without your spouse. Unfortunately, dividing airmiles may be tricky for the following reasons:
- Some reward programs have terms that don’t allow the transfer of points
- It can be difficult to determine the exact cash value of points and many rewards programs refuse to pinpoint a cash value, for example when the cost of a flight
- varies depending on the destination or season
- Some rewards programs specify that airmiles aren’t transferable in a divorce
- Even providers who allow the transferral of points often charge a fee for this service
If your rewards program does not allow the transfer of points so you can divide them equally with your ex-spouse you and your lawyer must prove their value as accurately as possible. In some cases, travel agents may be able to help you determine airline mile values. Then a lawyer can help you choose one of the following solutions for dividing the airmiles:
- After determining the cash value you can offer your divorcing spouse half of the monetary value of the points
- You can keep the airmiles by exchanging your spouse’s half with something of equal value
- You can give the airmiles to your spouse and demand something of equal value in exchange
- If the airline allows you to buy tickets in another name, you can agree to purchase tickets with your airmiles when your spouse needs or wants to travel until you’ve used half of mile points
It’s important during the division of assets in a California divorce to not overlook assets like airmiles and hotel points. In some cases, this type of asset is left out of a divorce settlement and forgotten until one spouse wishes to travel, in which case it may cause a dispute after the divorce.
If you are in the process of divorcing and have questions about the division of complex assets like airmiles, an experienced Los Angeles complex property division attorney can help.