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What’s it mean to “dissipate” marital assets?

On Behalf of | Nov 28, 2022 | Divorce

Before you ever initiated the divorce proceedings against your spouse, you did your homework. You collected bank account records, investment statements, real estate deeds, tax returns and other financial documents – all of which attested to the fact that you had considerable marital property to divide.

Why, then, is your spouse suddenly pleading poverty and insisting that the coffers are dry? What happened to their once-profitable business and all the money in your accounts?

It’s entirely possible that your spouse is attempting to subvert the divorce process by hiding assets – or they may have simply “dissipated” them. Basically, that means that your spouse wasted them or ran through them with utter abandon and no regard for your rights in the matter.

Why would a spouse waste money and assets like that?

Sometimes, this isn’t intentional. If your spouse has an addiction, for example, they may have run through a lot of money to feed their vice, whether that’s alcohol, drugs, gambling or shopping.

Sometimes, of course, it’s entirely intentional: A bitter spouse may decide it’s better to have nothing than share. They’re willing to suffer as long as you are, too. Maybe they sold all of the household furniture at a yard sale or gave away their valuable coin collection just to spite you. Almost anything is possible.

Finally, sometimes a spouse’s actions are simply selfish. They’ve moved on to a new romance, and they don’t care that they’re using marital funds to provide their new partner with lavish dinners, extravagant gifts or expensive vacations.

Is there anything you can do when this happens?

The court views dissipation very poorly, and it isn’t unusual for the victimized spouse to be given the lion’s share of what remains. In addition, your spouse could even be ordered to repay you what’s been frittered away. The smart thing to do right now is to start collecting evidence of what’s missing and attempt to pin down their values.

Some couples can end their marriages on relatively easy (even amicable) terms – and some cannot. A lot of times, contentions arise over the property division process. Find out what you can do to minimize the fallout and get a fair split.