Divorce is understandably tough on anyone. Acknowledging that your marriage is irretrievably broken, thinking about budgeting for the same expenses with half the income or realizing that you are single, again, are heavy subjects.
Dealing with a spouse who does not want to play fair – like one who tries to dissipate assets – only adds to your stress. Worse, it can cause lasting problems if your attorney is not ready for the challenge or experienced in these types of cases.
What is dissipation?
Dissipation is the legal term for situations in which one spouse wastes marital assets that would have been subject to division in a divorce. It is one of the go-to tricks for spouses who want to play dirty, often affecting women.
Examples of dissipation could include things like:
- Purchasing extravagant gifts for a girlfriend
- Racking up credit card debt
- Harming a business
- Abusing drugs or alcohol
Do you have any recourse?
Under Florida law, a court can award you a larger share of the marital estate during property division to compensate you for the assets you would have had absent dissipation. The tricky part is proving it.
Before the court will award an unequal distribution based on distribution, you must establish a few things:
- That the waste was intentional: The standard here is not beyond a reasonable doubt as it is in criminal courts, but that does not make it easy. For example, is spending too much money at the bar an indication of intent or a symptom of addiction? Did business profits dip because of the market, bad management or sabotage?
- That the waste was substantial: The court likely will not consider one meal at a nice restaurant dissipation. The financial misconduct must be much larger, substantially affecting the value of the marital estate. There, however, is not a minimum dollar amount. The determination is relative to you and your spouse’s financial situation.
- Timing: Florida statutes state that the waste must have occurred after you filed the petition for divorce or during the two years leading up to the divorce. This might seem like a hard line, but judges have the authority to exercise discretion when they believe it necessary for a just or equitable result.
Evidence often proves crucial in these cases. Protect yourself by obtaining detailed copies of financial records, taking screen shots of social media posts and pictures or otherwise documenting any suspect behavior.