Divorce is stressful, and that can bring out the worst in some people. Otherwise kind and rational humans can start acting terribly toward someone they once loved deeply. Sometimes, that can mean dramatic fights and tense conversations. Other times, it could look like an attempt to punish the other spouse. Financial punishment is actually a very common way that people act out in a divorce.
If you believe that your spouse has intentionally given away assets, sold them for less than they were worth or incurred substantial debt to punish you, that could impact your divorce. When one spouse intentionally wastes marital assets right before or after filing for divorce, the courts may consider that dissipation and adjust the division of assets accordingly.
What is dissipation, and why does it matter?
Dissipation is an intentional act on the part of one spouse to diminish the value of marital property. Usually, this needs to happen during the breakdown of the marriage or after someone files for divorce. Sometimes, however, dissipation can extend back into a marriage in the form of ongoing expenses for extramarital affairs.
Dissipation can look like spending a lot of money or charging many things on credit cards. It can also look like giving away possessions or selling them to people for ridiculously low prices, possibly with the intention of regaining them after divorce. It can also look like spending money an affair through hotel stays and gifts during your marriage. Actions taken to deprive the other spouse of valuable marital assets can impact how the courts rule.
Pushing back against spousal dissipation lets you seek justice
Having your spouse effectively attempt to steal from you is a frustrating experience. You'd be perfectly justified to feel very upset and betrayed by such actions. Sadly, they are common enough that the courts routinely need to rule on claims of dissipation. For those who have an ex attempting to sway the asset division process by liquidating assets, the courts may offer some justice.
If you have financial records or other documentation that shows dissipation, you may be able to ask the courts to consider that information while dividing your assets. You will need to determine the overall value of the dissipation, and that figure will then feature in the asset division process. While the courts usually don't consider spousal misconduct while dividing assets, they can consider dissipation.
The spouse who attempted to hide or waste assets will usually end up paying the price for those losses or expenses. The courts may award more of the overall assets to the other spouse, or they may hold the spouse who spent the money responsible for the significant debt incurred. In either case, that outcome will be a form of justice for the spouse negatively impacted by dissipation.