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3 actions that could constitute dissipation of marital assets

On Behalf of | Feb 16, 2024 | Divorce

Divorce proceedings often require intense negotiations. Spouses have to identify their marital property, disclose their separate property and then determine how to divide their assets with one another. This process can take weeks or may ultimately require litigation.

People are often eager to keep as much marital wealth as they can. There are others who might try instead to reduce what their spouse receives. They may not even care about having less property themselves if they can impose a financial penalty on their spouse during the divorce.

Some people engage in financial misconduct right before or in the early stages of a divorce as a way to diminish the marital estate. Dissipation or the wasteful misuse of resources is one of the few types of marital misconduct that could affect the outcome of property division proceedings. The following relatively common types of behavior may constitute dissipation.

Wasteful spending or intentional debt acquisition

Marital dissipation often looks like frivolous financial conduct. Someone spends thousands of dollars on unnecessary items. They might take themselves on a shopping spree and empty out a savings account while doing so. Other times, they might accrue a large amount of debt instead of spending capital. Intentional attempts to diminish the value of the marital estate, including spending or shopping that does not align with someone’s conduct throughout the marriage, could constitute dissipation and may affect the division of property and debts in a divorce.

The destruction of marital resources

Someone seeking to punish their spouse for misconduct or the failure of a marriage might lash out at them by intentionally damaging their property. They might set someone’s wardrobe on fire or smash their computer. Other times, one spouse might host a yard sale where they liquidate the property belonging to the other spouse for pennies on the dollar. Giving away assets, intentionally destroying them or selling them for far less than the fair market value could constitute dissipation and could potentially affect the outcome of property division proceedings.

Using marital resources on an affair

One of the most common reasons that people accuse their spouses of dissipation is the discovery of extramarital infidelity. If someone spent thousands of dollars flying an affair partner to vacation resorts or paying for hotel rooms, the other spouse could potentially submit evidence of that behavior to the courts and ask that the judge adjust the property division ruling accordingly.

The use of marital income and assets for a purpose that actively harms the marital relationship or drains the marital estate maliciously could constitute dissipation just like the intentional destruction of marital property. Ultimately, gathering proper financial documentation can help one spouse hold the other accountable for the wasteful dissipation of marital property during a divorce.


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