Your Spouse Gave Away Marital Assets To A Lover, Now What?

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Your Spouse Gave Away Marital Assets To A Lover, Now What?

21 April 2015
 Categories: , Blog

When combing through records and documents during a divorce, it's not unusual to discover a spouse has been spending money on and/or giving marital assets to a lover. While you can sue the third-party for the return of those assets, it may be better and easier to file a dissipation of marital assets claim with the court. Here's more information on how this legal maneuver works.

What is Dissipation of Assets?

This is a legal term that describes when one spouse wrongfully uses marital assets for purposes that are unrelated to the marriage. While this term is frequently used in connection to the discovery that a wife or husband used community funds to buy gifts for a mistress or lover, the term actually covers any type of wastefulness or mishandling of community property such as:

  • Transferring marital property to friends and family members
  • Excessive participation in vices such as gambling and drinking
  • Spending exorbitant amounts of money on hobbies or collections without the consent of the spouse
  • Sending a relative a monthly stipend without the spouse's knowledge or consent

Not everything will be considered dissipation. Anything you agree to allow will be denied, even if you received no benefit. For instance, if you agreed to let your spouse spend $50 a week on lottery tickets, you won't be able to claim that as dissipation.

Though this varies from state to state, one of two conditions generally must be true for a dissipation of marital assets claim to be valid:

  • The money and/or assets were distributed during a time when the marriage was breaking apart, or
  • The money or assets were used/spent for non-marital purposes while the marriage was ongoing (e.g. purchasing gifts for a sweetheart)

For the first condition, you'll need to provide evidence to the court as to when the marriage began falling apart to support your claim.

Filing a Claim

During your divorce proceedings, you must indicate to the court that you intend to bring a dissipation of marital assets action against your spouse. This is because if your spouse is unable to defend against the charge to the court's satisfaction, the judge will adjust the division of the marital estate to compensate for the loss.

For example, if your spouse gives his or her paramour a painting worth $10,000, the court will divide the assets so that you receive a larger share equivalent to your stake in the artwork.

Some states set time limits for bringing a dissipation action. For instance, in Illinois, you must file a notice with the court no later than 60 days prior to trial or 30 days after the discovery phase ends. Additionally, state law may also limit how far back in the marriage your claim can go. For example, you may only be able to hold your spouse accountable for assets lost in the five years prior to the divorce filing.

Filing a dissipation of marital assets claim can be challenging. It's essential that you have an attorney assist you with the process to increase chances of getting an outcome in your favor. For more information, contact Nevada Legal Forms & Tax services or a similar organization.