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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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Naperville divorce lawyerNeedless to say, emotions can run high during a divorce. While some couples are able to end their marriages cooperatively and cordially, other marriages have much more dramatic endings. When one spouse is vengeful or resentful of the other, he or she may use certain tactics to get what he or she wants or to hurt the other spouse. Wasting assets is one of these tactics. When a spouse purposely spends marital property recklessly during the end of a marriage, he or she is guilty of something called dissipation.

Dissipation Defined

In Illinois, dissipation is defined as “the use of marital property for the sole benefit of one of the spouses for a purpose unrelated to the marriage at a time that the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown”. “Irreconcilable breakdown” means that the marriage has come to the “beginning of the end.” In other words, the couple is no longer attempting to save the marriage or working toward any reconciliation.

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Naperville divorce lawyerDividing a couple’s marital property is often one of the most complex aspects of a divorce. Before the work of dividing the assets can even be started, the cumulative value of the marital estate must be determined as well as that of each asset.

How Marital Property is Divided

Illinois considers all property, with very few exceptions, acquired after the date of the marriage to be marital property. Unless the two sides can reach an agreement on their own, Illinois law requires the court to divide the property equitably. Doing so involves examining all of the relevant factors and dividing the property in a manner that is fair and just, not necessarily equally.

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