I Ain't Saying She's A Gold Digger . . .

Ok, the title and the picture are not totally on point for the topic, but finding a good photo for dissipation of assets is a challenge above my feeble mind, especially right before Thanksgiving.   

Dissipation of assets is when one spouse uses marital assets for their own benefit as the marriage is breaking down. In Illinois, dissipation is one factor a judge will consider when dividing property during a divorce.

 Let's say you've been married 20 years and in that time saved up for retirement, put a lot of equity into your home, and acquired other assets. The law says that neither you nor your spouse can waste it away before the court has a chance to divide it. If a judge determines that a spouse dissipated assets, they may award the other spouse a larger portion of what's left, or they may require the dissipating spouse to pay it back.

A classic example is when a spouse starts gambling after the marriage goes south and wastes the couple's entire savings. Another is when one spouse buys gifts for their boyfriend or girlfriend. The other spouse can bring this up in arguing that they should be awarded a larger share of other marital property, such as the house.

Another example is when a divorce is underway and the spouse responsible for paying the mortgage fails to make the payments and loses the house. This can be considered dissipation of assets. There have been cases of this type of dissipation in the past, but I'd bet divorce attorneys are seeing it even more these days.

Dissipation only applies when the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown. Not every expense since the marriage began is relevant; only those toward the end (although the end can be anything from a couple of months to many years). I know this sounds vague. It is. There is no clear definition in the law, and it varies from case to case.

Also, not all property is considered joint marital property. Gifts and inheritances, even if received during the marriage, are usually considered a spouse's separate property. Using up personal assets is not dissipation, although to be safe, you probably shouldn't make an assumption.

If assets are spent on marital or family expenses, it's not considered dissipation. But you have to be able to prove it. A spouse defending against a claim of dissipation is going to have to show - with receipts and other documentation - where the money went.

I agree with the concept. One spouse shouldn't be able to sabotage the finances as the marriage comes to an end. However, when you get to the specifics (Was it marital property or separate? Was it spent on legitimate family expenses or for one spouse's sole benefit? Did it occur when the marriage was breaking down?), there are some fine lines.



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