Addressing The Dissipation of Marital Assets in Divorce
Unfortunately, each year there are a number of individuals who battle over finances during their divorce, and in some of those cases, dissipation of assets can become an issue. Some may decide that they suddenly need to engage in excessive spending in order to prevent their spouse from getting more of the marital assets, while others may believe that starting to spend more immediately before they file for divorce will prove to the court that they need more in terms of income each month.
However, it is important to note that, in Florida, the courts begin with the premise that distribution of marital assets should be equal unless there is justification to distribute them unequally, and one of the relevant factors that can provide justification for unequal distribution is the intentional dissipation of marital assets; either after filing the divorce petition, or within two years before filing. While once the divorce petition is filed, an administrative order prevents both parties from dissipating assets (and anyone who violates it can be held in contempt), addressing these issues when they occurred before the petition was filed can be more challenging, making it wise to file the petition for divorce as soon as possible in order to get the order in place.
If one party alleges that dissipation has occurred, the initial burden is on them to prove that the spending is not only unusual and excessive, but also intentional. The burden then shifts to the other party to prove that their spending was for legitimate purposes. As a result, in order to properly make this decision, a number of questions may arise with respect to previous spending patterns in order for the court to figure out what is and is not intentional, timelines for spending habits, etc.
While, in some cases, certain types of spending might involve obvious dissipation of marital assets – for example, purchasing large gifts for a girlfriend or boyfriend, gambling, etc. – in other cases, the decision can be more difficult and thus subject to significant litigation. For example, one Florida court held that a spouse who used marital assets to pay back a family member for a loan that was previously made to her and her husband while they were married did count as dissipation. In addition, if the individual accused of dissipation spends funds on an activity that they have been routinely spending those funds on for, say, 20 years, that also does not fit Florida’s statutory requirement for dissipation because it did not arise after the filing of the petition or within two years prior to filing.
Speak with an Experienced Florida Divorce & Family Law Attorney
The dissipation of assets can have a number of consequences on both parties. Individuals can end up at a loss by remaining separated but failing to file for divorce, all while one or both are hiding something from the other. Yet without actually filing for divorce, the court cannot find that dissipation has occurred and thus address issues involving alleged excessive spending.
If you have any questions or concerns about divorce, it always makes sense to reach out to an experienced divorce and family law attorney in your area for a free consultation. In doing so, you will better know what to expect, and can plan your actions so as to protect yourself and your loved ones.
No matter what family law issue you are facing, our West Palm Beach divorce lawyer is ready to help. Contact us today at the office of William Wallshein, P.A. to schedule your free consultation to find out more.