Defending a Dissipation Claim in Divorce

There are plenty of challenging aspects to any divorce situation. In addition to the unquestionably difficult emotional turbulence, most couples must also deal with a number of practical considerations as well, including arrangements regarding children, spousal support, and the division of assets and property. While each process, of course, includes its own unique intricacies, the dividing of assets and property can, in many cases, set the tone for the entire divorce. This can be especially true when your spouse accuses you of dissipating marital assets, an accusation that is roughly equivalent to alleging that you stole from the marriage.

Understanding Dissipation

In everyday language, dissipation is commonly defined as the squandering of money, energy, or other resources. As it relates to marriage and divorce, a dissipation claim against you means that you have been accused of inappropriately spending, wasting, or destroying marital—or non-marital—property, which negatively impacted the upcoming property division negotiation. Common dissipation claims involve marital property spent on adulterous relationships, gambling, and allowing property to fall into disrepair or foreclosure. Non-marital property can be included in a dissipation claim since equitable distribution laws in Illinois require the court to consider the income and available resources of both spouses. Therefore, giving away or destroying valuable personal property can make it appear that you have fewer resources than you actually do, which can upset the division process.

Dissipation Claim and Defense

If your spouse has decided to pursue a dissipation claim against you, he or she will need to include certain details in the claim. He or she must provide a date to be used to mark the breakdown of the marriage, since, under the law, dissipation is not actionable as such while the marriage is healthy and intact. The claim must also include the property alleged to be dissipated, and the timeframe in which the dissipation is said to have taken place.

As with any type of legal action, your best defense against dissipation claims will depend on the details of the accusation. For example, you may wish to contest your spouse’s claim that the marriage was breaking down as of a particular date. This, however, may be relatively difficult to prove in some cases, but in others, there may truly not have been any signs of impending trouble.

The most convincing defense, though, is that the money or property in question was used for the purposes of the marriage, even if it was done without the consent or knowledge of your spouse. This requires definitive proof, as vague claims of helping the marriage are not considered sufficient. For example, you may have taken money out of a joint savings account, or made an early withdrawal with penalties from a retirement account without notifying your spouse. If you used that money to take a trip with your friends to the Caribbean, the money will probably be considered to have been dissipated, assuming the timeframe criteria have been met. If, on the other hand, you used that money to pay off the remaining debt on your car, the money was spent to satisfy a marital debt, and therefore not dissipated.

Defending a claim for dissipation can be very stressful and confusing. That is why it is important to have the help of an experienced Orland Park divorce attorney. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation. We will help you understand your options and the claim’s potential impact on the overall divorce proceedings. Call Kezy & Associates at 708-518-8200 for an appointment at one of our three convenient locations.