With the start of the final season of Game of Thrones, everyone wants to “borrow” passwords to HBO. Who will take the Iron Throne is almost as tough a question as how a divorce court handles streaming services like HBO, Netflix, Hulu and others.
Game of Groans
As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, when Aimee Custis and Kian McKellar broke up after four years, the couple divvied up their books, photography equipment and cookware.
Left undivided was their Netflix, Hulu and Pandora accounts. They didn’t discuss separating the subscriptions when one of them moved out of their shared Washington, D.C., apartment. They just continued paying their respective bills—hers, Hulu, and his, Netflix and Pandora.
Two-and-a-half years later, they still share those services. In the so-called sharing economy, even when love is no longer mutual, bills for entertainment and communication often are.
Streaming music and video services that permit multiple users, plus the proliferation of family cellphone plans in recent years that are cheaper than individual accounts, have created ties that bind long after a breakup or even divorce.
Florida Divorce and Streaming Services
I’ve written about property division before. Property division, or equitable distribution as it is called in Florida, is governed by statute and case law.
Generally, courts set apart to each spouse their non-marital assets and debts, and then distribute the marital assets and debts between the parties.
Marital assets and liabilities include, in part, assets acquired and liabilities incurred during the marriage, individually by either spouse or jointly by them.
Streaming services, such as HBO, Netflix and Hulu however are not marital assets per se. They are merely expenses, much like your cell phone plan. Cell phone plans typically require a contract for two years and you can face fees if you break your contract early.
There are not many options: break the plan and pay the fees and penalty or coming to an agreement with your spouse about who pays for what during the remainder of the contract.
No Battle for Winterfell?
Do you have to leave your Netflix and HBO access with your soon to be ex? No always. Interestingly, not everyone going through divorce and separation get dropped from the account.
Sometimes people do not realize that their password is shared and their spouse is still watching. But other times people purposefully keep their spouse or ex on the account because sentimentality intrudes.
A consultant in his 30s says he was puzzled by his parents’ decision to pay for his brother’s ex-girlfriend’s cellphone plan long after their breakup. The $30-per-month cost was minimal, they told him, and their memories of her were fond.
The Wall Street Journal article is here (subscription required).