When couples divorce, any property they acquired during the marriage is divided between them. This includes intangibles such as airline miles. However, placing a value on miles isn't always a straightforward process.
Miles Are Marital Assets
If you or your spouse earned airline miles during your marriage as part of a rewards program, these miles are considered a marital asset. As a result, they are considered the property of both spouses and divisible in divorce. If you live in a community property state, such as California, the court splits these miles equally between you and your spouse. However, if you live in an equitable distribution state, such as New York or Maryland, the court divides these miles based on what is fair and just under the circumstances, which may result in an unequal split.
Dividing and Valuing Miles
Determining the cash value of accumulated airline miles is not always easy. While some reward programs assign a dollar value to miles, others do not. When a dollar value isn't readily available, the court can attempt to come up with a rough estimate based on criteria such as the number of miles required to obtain a first class ticket or to travel a certain distance. Once a value has been assigned to airline miles, the court divides the miles between spouses. If the reward program allows it, the court may split the miles into two separate reward accounts. If miles aren't transferable, the court may instead let one spouse keep his accumulated miles, while granting the other spouse marital property of similar value.