Post: 3 things authors should know about divorce


If you plan on earning a living from writing books, you’ll have a lot to learn about the publishing process, marketing, royalties and other financial issues. There are several key issues to be aware of if you happen to be a married person who is contemplating divorce. What do these two topics have to do with each other? Probably more than you realize, especially regarding a property division settlement.

You might think that writing a book is sort of like receiving an inheritance. When someone who has died has bequeathed a gift in your name, it belongs to you and you alone, from a legal standpoint, that is. If you were to file for divorce, your inheritance is considered separately owned property and, therefore, is not subject to property division. Because you wrote a book (meaning, your spouse didn’t write it, you did) shouldn’t royalties or profits generated belong to you and you alone? The answer is: not necessarily!

Profit from a book you wrote in marriage is jointly owned property in divorce

If you write a book during your marriage, any money you make from the marketing and sales of that book is legally considered marital property in a divorce. This could have a significant impact on your finances following a divorce. For instance, if you are writing a series and only one of the books was completed during your marriage, your ex might still be entitled to receive a portion of royalties or profits that come from any future books you write in the same series, even after finalizing your divorce.

What if you have a best-seller that becomes a movie?

Perhaps you’ll be one of the authors pursued from Hollywood to take a story you’ve written and turn it into a full-length feature film. If the book that the movie is based on was written while you were married, then your ex might be entitled to a portion of monies you get paid for the movie. 

The state in which you have filed for divorce determines how assets are split

If you live in states like California, Texas, Arizona or Washington, property division in a divorce operates under community property guidelines. This means that the family court judge overseeing your case would split all marital property and liabilities 50/50 between you and ex. This would include income you have earned from writing books during marriage. 

If, on the other hand, you live in an “equitable property” state, the judge determines a fair, although not necessarily equal division of property. In such states, you can sometimes barter assets. For instance, you might agree to keep 100% of your book profits in exchange for forfeiting an asset of equal value to your spouse. To make sure you receive a fair and agreeable settlement, especially if you’re an author who is preparing for a divorce, it’s best to seek clarification of your state’s property division laws before proceedings begin so that you know what to expect in court.