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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 family law attorneyWhen you are in the middle of a divorce, property division can always become an issue regardless of how amicable the proceedings have been to that point. Both spouses in a marriage deserve their fair share of the marital assets - though “fair” does not always mean “equal” - but it is not uncommon for one spouse to waste or lose marital assets through profligacy. Known as dissipation, this behavior can have consequences to both spouses. It is generally a good idea to know what dissipation looks like, so you may be able to call it out if necessary.

Legal Definitions

Illinois has actually been one of the leading states in defining what exactly constitutes dissipation, and what the criteria to establish such a thing should be. As far back as 1990, Illinois had a working definition of dissipation from the case of In Re Marriage of O’Neill. Dissipation is not simply waste; it is defined as “the use of marital property by one spouse, for their benefit, for a purpose completely unrelated to the marriage, at a time when the marriage is undergoing an irreversible breakdown.”

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