When emotions are riding high, individuals might engage in behavior that they wouldn’t have previously imagined possible. One of the people in a divorce may be fixated on making sure their spouse “never sees a dime.”
So, what happens if one spouse is spending a lot of money before the divorce being final?
Although marital fault is becoming less of a factor for many judges, the concept of economic fault remains essential when it comes time to divide your assets.
Dissipation is a legal term that means intentional or negligent misuse of marital funds. To be considered “dissipation”, the spending must be
A. For a non-marital purpose during the marriage (without one’s spouse’s consent)
B. After the marriage has already begun to break down
Example: Mark and Heather live in an equitable/marital property state. They have been married for ten years and have saved $300,000, which will be divided equitably at divorce. Seeing that divorce is imminent, Heather goes on a shopping spree with $200,000 of the marital assets, buying clothes, cars, going on cruises, and spending money on her new boyfriend. When it comes time to divide the property, Mark will likely be awarded the remaining $100,000 and perhaps a more significant percentage of the sale of the marital home, if sold, or other assets. Heather may even have to return some of the $200,000.