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What is wasteful dissipation in a divorce?

On Behalf of | Dec 28, 2022 | Divorce, Family Law

Divorce proceedings all too often lead to fights over marital property. As couples brace themselves for a major life adjustment, they may alter their financial habits.

While one partner may try to save to prepare for the cost of litigation and a lifestyle with one income, the other may spend large sums of money from the marital estate without the other spouse’s knowledge.

What is wasteful dissipation?

Wasteful dissipation refers to using marital assets for purposes unrelated to the marriage. Such spending could include buying gifts for someone other than one’s spouse or gambling away large amounts of money.

A key factor often involves the individual making the expenses without the consent or knowledge of one’s partner. While this can happen when spouses are still together, it is more common during the dissolution of a marriage when one spouse depletes funds that the two would equitably divide.

How does wasteful dissipation affect divorce settlements?

When a court finds that one spouse has committed wasteful dissipation, it may award that party with less marital property than they could have otherwise received in a divorce settlement. For example, if a husband uses $10,000 of joint assets on an extravagant personal purchase without his wife’s knowledge or consent, he could end up with less of their shared assets in the final divorce decree.

In such cases, the accusing spouse must clearly prove the spending was wasteful. The amount of the award usually depends on how much the person wasted and whether or not any mitigating factors were at play.

Wasteful dissipation can have severe consequences. Someone going through a separation does well to consider financial decisions carefully once negotiations and litigation begin.


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