Many clients find themselves in the unfortunate situation that their spouse has drained the marital/joint bank account just before filing for divorce or possibly the spouse senses that the end is near and anticipates you filing for divorce. Whatever the situation, this is called dissipation of assets. It is defined as when one spouse uses marital property for his or her own benefit or for a purpose unrelated to the marriage at a time where the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown. If this happens to you, how do you respond? Needless to say, this is problematic and very harmful to you, because the courts can only divide property that exists at the time of the divorce. One exception is if dissipation of assets or waste can proven. You will need an experienced attorney like Kevin Hickey Law Partners on your side to head this situation off.
Addressing dissipation of funds in a timely manner is important. This requires quick consultation with your divorce attorney so swift action can be taken. In some cases, a judge can issue a bar to keep the spouse from changing the status quo of the marriage once a divorce action begins. In order to prove dissipation of assets, it must be proven that there was intentional misconduct, a deliberate attempt by one spouse to steal marital property. Yes, I said, “steal,” because that is exactly what dissipation of assets amounts to---stealing.
Another form of intentional misconduct is dissipation through waste---reducing or destroying the value of a marital asset. In either situation, the purpose is always the same—to prevent the other spouse from obtaining marital property rights in the asset or assets involved. If either form of dissipation can be proven, the spouse found to have caused dissipation very well could be required to reimburse the marital estate.
A few things the courts will look for when determining if dissipation of assets or waste actually occurred is the timing of the alleged dissipation. Did it take place around the same time that the marriage broke down with the deliberate intent of depriving one spouse of the assets? Now, this does not give you the ability to speak up about your husband or wife’s spending habits during the marriage. This does not constitute disputation of waste. However, if he or she went out and racked up thousands of dollars on a joint credit card after separation or the divorce has been filed, you may have a legitimate claim.
The amount of the claim is also considered. As mentioned above, thousands of dollars on a credit card or withdrawing tens or thousands of dollars from a joint account are typically large enough sums to be considered misconduct. A few hundred dollars here and there may not be considered substantial enough for a court to consider. Although, the courts do take amounts that are relative to the situation into consideration. For example, $10,000 to a billionaire may not be considered that much money, but to someone earning $50,000 a year, it is.
Keep in mind that dissipation of assets isn’t limited to extramarital affairs or excessive spending; it can come in the form of “loaning” family members large amounts of money, selling expensive assets for much less than they are worth or outright hiding of property or accounts.
We often tell our clients that a good rule of thumb is to avoid dating while going through your divorce. This eliminates the threat of your ex being able to claim dissipation of funds or waste. It removes one more issue to further complicate the situation.
Contact Kevin Hickey Law Partners today if you believe your soon-to-be ex has depleted your assets or is planning to do so. We will file the correct paperwork with the courts in an expedited manner. We will gather evidence to prove that your spouse abused or intentionally squandered marital assets to deprive the other party of their fair share. Additionally, if we find it necessary, we will enlist the help of other professionals, such as forensic accountants, to help identify and stop the unlawful behavior of a malicious spouse. Call us, you can count on us!