Dissipation of assets is a legal concept that applies when one estranged spouse wastes marital property in anticipation of or during a divorce. In some Minnesota cases, spouses are vindictive toward one another. One spouse would rather waste money than see the other spouse get it. The process can be war-like in cases like these, with spite, greed and anger as primary motivators. Every credit card statement line-item becomes a battle.
Some states issue temporary restraining orders at the outset of divorce proceedings to prevent spouses from wasting assets, but others do not. To claim that dissipation of assets has occurred, the amount in question must be substantial and the spending must have been unusual and frivolous. Generally speaking, the court system is not designed to settle penny ante conflicts. Whether wasteful spending was substantial is a question of degree that courts decide on a case-by-case basis.
The requirement that dissipative spending be unusual and frivolous prevents a spouse from taking issue with the other spouse’s habitual impulsive spending or penchant for expensive motorcycles or handbags. Courts are reluctant to find that a person is purposely wasting assets if the activity is consistent with spending activity during the course of the marriage.
It is often in a person’s best interests to hire professionals to assist with the divorce. In some cases, a forensic accountant may be able to dissect and decipher bank statements and spending records to uncover asset-dissipation on the part of a spouse. An attorney with experience in these types of matters may be able to help by negotiating an overall settlement agreement containing property division and alimony provisions that can protect a client’s future financial security.