As bitcoin’s value shoots up, members of fringe anti-woman movements are advising each other to use the cryptocurrency to hide money during a divorce.
Bitcoin, a digital cryptocurrency, has skyrocketed in value this year, with the the price of one coin soaring past $15,000 this month. But some of bitcoin’s user base, which skews overwhelming male, is more worried about losing the newly valuable coins to their spouses than a market crash. For years, a subset of so-called men’s rights activists have advocated pouring money into bitcoin, to hide it during divorce proceedings. Now, with the spotlight on bitcoin, lawyers are catching on.
“I have a feeling it’s not going to be too long before I get one of these cases,” divorce attorney David Badanes said of dividing bitcoin in a divorce case. But inevitably, he said, a divorcing spouse is going to try hiding their money in bitcoin, to avoid paying alimony.
“Let’s say I was getting divorced, and I had some bitcoin,” he said. “Maybe no one would know about it except me. The way it’s structured, it’s very easy to conceal.”
Marital attorneys have been warning of bitcoin-complicated divorces for years.
“Nearly one-third of individuals who combine their finances with their significant others have deceived their partner about money,” a 2015 article titled “A Bit-ter Divorce: Using Bitcoin to Hide Marital Assets” in a University of North Carolina law journal claims (PDF). “Bitcoin’s anonymity, combined with its capability for quick bitcoin transfers between wallets, makes hiding marital assets easier for spouses.”
That’s a polite version of advice that’s circulated forums for the so-called men’s rights movement for years.
Men’s rights activists and their message boards are obsessively concerned with alleged anti-male biases in divorce court (a concern that would appear moot next to the movement’s primary complaint: that women will not marry them). On a subreddit for Blackpill, an extreme arm of the men’s rights movement, a Redditor advised readers earlier this year to dump their money into bitcoin “so that you can divorce rape-proof your assets in the event that your wife divorces you and decides to steal half your shit.”
(“Divorce rape” being the community’s term for dividing one’s assets during a divorce. A number of the movement’s adherents are not opposed to actual rape.)
In 2013, bitcoin forum users were outraged over a user’s post, which claimed a cheating ex-wife was trying to seize a man’s bitcoins in divorce court. After several pages of vaguely or explicitly sexist anger, the original poster admitted that they had been trolling, and the story was fiction.
Even legitimate bitcoin publications wrote guides to using the cryptocurrency in a divorce.
“With Bitcoin, Hiding Assets in Divorce Is Risky, But It Pays,” the headline of a 2016 article on the cryptocurrency website CoinTelegraph warned.
Fables of greedy bitcoin spouses and advice for hiding the cryptocurrency seem to skew toward an overwhelmingly male audience.
Bitcoin is anonymous by design. But studies of its demographics suggest most buyers are men. In a 2015 survey by cryptocurrency site CoinDesk, over 90 percent of respondents identified as male. The website Coin Dance uses Google Analytics to track the genders of people clicking on bitcoin content. This week, 96.57 percent of those users were male, according to the Google data.
Now, between increasingly fervent posts about protecting their bitcoins, some fans claim their anti-alimony tactics have paid off.
“My ex wife used to make fun of my Bitcoin. She thought it was sooooooo stupid just like everything else I talked about,” one Reddit user posted this week. He claimed he included a clause in their divorce agreement that barred her from his bitcoin, and that she recently mentioned bitcoins again in his presence.
“So instead I took the opportunity to tell her it’s now worth 16k. I then laughed the heartiest laugh I have ever laughed right in her fucking face. We got divorced before Bitcoin blew up and she can’t touch my fucking bitcoins! Nice house, babe. I got paid for that and now I’m getting paid by the best currency ever created! Fuck her. TO THE MOON!!!!!!”
But with increased scrutiny on bitcoin, lawyers and judges will be more likely to look for spouses hiding their assets in the coin, Badanes said. He predicts the next generation of swindlers will try hiding their money in lesser-known cryptocurrencies.
“Bitcoin is getting all the press, so to speak,” he said. “But I think somebody who’s really savvy may go for the ones that are not so prevalent.”
Some of those other cryptocurrencies like Ethereum have attracted a devoted following of their own, while others work like legally dubious penny stocks, debuting daily. “It’s like playing whack-a-mole,” Badanes said of keeping track of the new cryptocurrencies.
When one Brooklyn law firm learned that a divorcing couple was trying to split their bitcoin, the firm asked one of the divorcing spouses to pay their $5,085 retainer fee in bitcoin. The spouse posted the lawyer’s letter on Reddit, where the law firm’s official account confirmed the letter as legitimate.
Two months later, that bitcoin is worth nearly $20,000.