Dividing frequent flyer miles in a divorce settlement

On behalf of The Walters Law Group, Ltd. posted in Divorce on Friday, July 5, 2013.

For many Chicago couples, arriving at an amicable divorce settlement largely comes down to the division of marital assets. When it comes to assets such as stock portfolios, real estate and art collections, assigning a monetary value is not difficult. Credit card reward program points and frequent flyer miles are harder to negotiate. Some couples may run into questions about these types of programs, making a fair division a potentially contentious issue. These rewards can take years to accumulate, and enjoying their benefits is often something that is looked forward to with great anticipation.

The first step to sorting this out is to check the program’s terms and conditions. Some programs specifically state that rewards are not transferable to a spouse in a divorce settlement. In these cases, a monetary value must be assigned to the points or miles. This can be straightforward if the loyalty program provides a cash value for their points, but many do not.

Frequent flyer miles are particularly difficult to assess. The cost of air travel varies a great deal depending on the time of year a trip is taken and the choice of destination. A possible solution is to divide the miles equally, but this is not always possible and fees may be incurred if it is. Complicating matters further is the emotional attachment that people have for rewards that they have worked hard to earn.

Thinking financially rather than emotionally is often easier said than done, but an experienced divorce attorney will be aware of the pitfalls that a cooler approach can avoid. A client who becomes overly attached to a particular asset can have this used as leverage against him or her. Taking a more pragmatic approach will usually lead to a fairer settlement with fewer regrets in the long term.

Source: Forbes, “Divorce: Who Gets The Air Miles?“, Jeff Landers, June 26, 2013