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How Can Wasteful Dissipation Impact Your Divorce?


If spending was a sore spot for you and your spouse during your marriage, it’s not unlikely it will serve as a point of contention during your divorce. When a couple goes about dividing assets, the division of funds can be extremely tricky, especially if one spouse unfairly spent more than another. Courts will make the division as fair as possible, but if there was unfair or unnecessary spending differences, like wasteful dissipation, you should be aware of your legal rights before the finances are divided.

Most married couples share financial responsibility or have common credit cards that both spouses have access to. Because of this, it can be exceptionally easy for one spouse to spend more than his or her fair share, even making large purchases without first discussing them. Whether a spouse lies about spending or openly waves it in their partner’s face, this can cause serious issues during a marriage that can lead to a trickier divorce.

What is Wasteful Dissipation?

Wasteful dissipation is when one spouse frivolously spends the marital assets in anticipation of a divorce. This can take place earlier in the marriage, or directly before divorce proceedings begin, but generally involve improper or wasteful spending for the sole benefit of one spouse, not the couple as a married unit.

Examples of wasteful dissipation include:

  • Excessive and frivolous shopping
  • Selling property or business interests for lesser values
  • Spending on extramarital affairs
  • Excessive gambling
  • Intentionally failing to preserve assets
  • Spending excessive money on drugs, alcohol, or partying

Wasteful Dissipation in Divorce

When you divorce, the assets of the married couple are evaluated and everything considered “shared property” is divided equitably between each spouse. Courts will consider what each spouse contributed to the marriage, whether as a homemaker, caretaker, or breadwinner, and consider who deserves what. As far as monetary value goes, this can be problematic. When one spouse is guilty of wasteful dissipation, the wronged spouse will want to bring the issue to court so the remaining marital assets will be divided fairly.

For more about property division, visit our property settlement page.

For example, if Bob gambled away $10,000 right before the divorce, Mary will ask the courts to consider Bob’s spending wasteful dissipation, so the remaining assets, say $20,000 will be divided more fairly. Otherwise, the couple’s remaining $20,000 might be divided “equally,” leaving Bob with $10,000 after he already spent $10,000 of their shared funds, with Mary only receiving $10,000 overall.

Bringing attention to the wasteful dissipation of marriage assets is essential in securing a fair outcome in your divorce. By spending the marriage assets unfairly, your spouse puts the scale off-balance, putting you at an unfair disadvantage before the divorce even begins.

To discuss options regarding wasteful dissipation in your divorce, contact McIntyre Tate LLP for a consultation.

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