What is 'Wasteful Dissipation' of Marital Assets?

When it comes to divorce, there is one aspect that is frequently an issue and that is money. Whether financial problems led to the divorce, or hiding and concealing assets became a point of contention in the couple's relationship, or if wasteful spending became an issue, money is often a source of trouble for divorcing couples. For some spouses, it's a bigger problem than it is for others.

If you strongly believe that your spouse has been wasting martial funds, or if you have evidence that paints a clear picture of this, you're probably very frustrated about now and understandably so. That being said, we want to explain the term "wasteful dissipation of marital assets."

When Spouses Waste Marital Funds

When people are married, it's very easy for spouses to give each other strong financial control over marital funds. This happens when spouses have joint bank and credit accounts, and when spouses have access to each other's debit and credit card numbers and online banking information.

Gain access to financial account numbers and it's easy to make an Amazon purchase, buy airline tickets, or pay a credit card bill, even if it's not your own account. Sometimes, such conduct can lead to marital conflict, especially when financial transactions are not agreed upon by both spouses, regardless of "who" earned the money.

In a divorce proceeding, the court will take into consideration "contributions" to a marriage, as well as wasted assets to achieve a fair result. Just as the court will look at contributions as a breadwinner or a homemaker, the court will also look at "negative" contributions when deciding on an equitable distribution award.

What counts as dissipation?

In the simplest form, "dissipation" refers to times when a spouse will conceal or waste marital assets in anticipation of a divorce, but it can be more than that. For example, dissipation can occur when marital property for the sole benefit of one spouse, or for a reason that is completely unrelated to the marriage during a divorce proceeding.

Generally, it means to waste marital funds in a wasteful and foolish manner; this can occur just before the divorce or earlier in the marriage. One way to tell if such an expenditure qualifies is if the transaction was for the sole benefit of one of the spouses and it was "frivolous."

Examples of wasteful dissipation of marital assets:

  • Gambling,
  • Intentionally failing to preserve assets, for example, not paying the mortgage so the house goes into foreclosure,
  • Spending excessive money on drugs, alcohol, or partying, and
  • Spending money on an extramarital affair.

Unfortunately, when a spouse dissipates marital assets, they are creating an unfair playing field for the innocent spouse. In New York and all other states, the family courts are willing to consider the conduct of a dissipating spouse when dividing marital property.

If wasteful spending is an issue in your divorce, contact Jason M. Barbara & Associates, P.C. for a free consultation with a Nassau County divorce lawyer.