If you and your significant other decide to divorce, one or both of you may change your spending behavior. There are several reasons for this. For instance, you may suddenly spend less and save more to prepare for a future in which you are financially independent. Your spouse may spend more in an attempt to pay down debts, earn an education or double up on household necessities.
While neither of you would be wrong to want to prepare for the future by spending more wisely in your final days of marriage, you should be careful. In some cases, the courts may construe changes in spending behavior as the dissipation of marital assets. This is particularly true when the spending is “excessive,” or beyond the norm.
Defining dissipation of marital assets
According to Forbes, the dissipation of marital assets refers to the intentional squandering of marital property in the months leading up to a divorce or while a divorce is pending. For the courts to consider one spouse’s unusual spending as “dissipation,” the spouse must have spent the money with the intent to deprive the other or his or her fair share of the settlement in the divorce proceedings.
Proving dissipation of marital assets
If you plan to bring a claim for the intentional waste of marital assets, know that the burden of proof is on you — at least, at first. Though the judge will consider the unique circumstances for your case, he or she will likely want you to prove two things to be true.
The first is that the amount in question is substantial. The courts do not have time for claims that attempt to nickel-and-dime the other party. If your spouse uncharacteristically spent $100 on a new pair of jeans, the judge is unlikely to bat an eye. However, if he or she used your joint account to pay for a vacation to the Bahamas, the judge may decide to investigate further.
The second is that the spending must be out of character and frivolous. If you condoned excessive spending during your marriage, you cannot claim wasteful spending just because it bothers you now. This is the case even if the wasteful spending was a point of contention during your union. To have a valid claim, the spending behavior must be new, and on items to which your spouse had or showed no previous interest.
If the judge rules in your favor, you may receive a larger portion of the assets that remain.