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DuPage County divorce attorney dissipation of assets

Property division is often one of the most consequential aspects of divorce – especially for high-net-worth individuals. Some divorcing spouses reduce the value of the marital estate through excessive or careless spending or even intentionally destroying assets. This is referred to as the “dissipation of assets.” When a spouse spends money or property on a purpose not related to the marriage immediately prior to divorce, the other spouse may be entitled to compensation for the dissipated assets. Through a dissipation claim, you may be able to recover the value of assets your soon-to-be ex-spouse spent on extravagant vacations, gifts, or other unnecessary purchases.

Illinois Law Regarding Dissipation of Assets

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) contains a provision defining dissipation and addressing how wasted or destroyed assets should be handled in a divorce. Dissipative spending is excessive spending that does not benefit the marriage in any way. So, spending money on groceries, home repairs, or other necessary, reasonable expenses would not qualify as dissipation. Examples of dissipation may include:

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DuPage County family law attorneysIt is an unfortunate reality that divorce can sometimes bring out the worst in people. When a marriage is ending, spouses can sometimes act in ways which deplete the martial estate. They may purposely waste marital funds so that the other spouse does not have access to them or they may have an expensive drug, alcohol, gambling, or shopping addiction which drains the estate. If you are getting divorced and your spouse has squandered shared assets, you may be able to recover these assets through a dissipation claim.

Illinois Law Regarding Dissipation of Assets

The term “dissipation” generally means to waste or spend resources frivolously or recklessly. With regard to divorce law, dissipation occurs when a spouse uses marital funds for a purpose not benefiting the marriage after the marriage has suffered an “irretrievable breakdown.” There is some ambiguity about what exactly constitutes this breakdown, but it is generally defined as the moment that a married couple ceases attempts at reconciliation. In other words, an irretrievable breakdown occurs when divorce is imminent.

Examples of Dissipation

The Illinois Supreme Court has defined dissipation as the sale or use of marital property “for the sole benefit of one of the spouses for a purpose unrelated to the marriage.” This means that using marital funds for household bills or a mortgage payment is not dissipation. If a husband used thousands of dollars of martial funds on a vacation for him and his secret girlfriend during the end of his marriage, it is very likely that this would be considered dissipative. Similarly, if a wife has a substance abuse problem and spends a significant amount of money on drugs after the breakdown of her marriage, her spouse could claim dissipation. Spouses may also be able to file a dissipation claim when marital property “goes missing” and the other spouse cannot account for why the money or property was used.

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DuPage County famila law attorneyAccording to government data, approximately 23.5 million Americans have drug and alcohol addictions.  That works out to roughly one in 10 individuals in the United States over the age of 12. Alcoholism and drug addiction can rob a person of everything they hold dear in life, including their marriage. Of course, drugs and alcohol are not the only types of addictions that occur. Compulsive shopping, gambling addiction, and even sex and pornography addictions can also wreak havoc on a couple’s marriage. If you are considering divorcing your spouse who suffers from an addiction, there are several things you should keep in mind.

Consider a Legal Separation

If you are planning to divorce a spouse suffering from addiction, it is crucial that you take steps to protect your property and assets. Consider placing your money in separate bank accounts instead of a joint account. You may also want to remove your spouse as an authorized user on your credit cards. Generally, any debt which is accumulated after a couple has filed for divorce is not included in the marital estate and subject to property division during divorce, especially debts that were entered into for the benefit of just one spouse.

If you worry that your money will be wasted by your spouse because of their addiction before you file for divorce, you may want to consider filing for legal separation as soon as possible. A person who is legally separated is not responsible for debt accumulated by his or her spouse after the separation. In order for a couple to be granted a legal separation in Illinois, they must be living apart.  

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