It’s essential to track all finances during a divorce, so that both parties receive fair and accurate settlements. Keeping records of each spouse’s income, assets, debts, expenses, and other financial obligations can help ensure a smooth transition during the proceedings.
That being said, there are times during which things don’t seem to add up. Money is inexplicitly missing from accounts, there are unusual charges on the credit cards, and even items of significant value may have gone missing around the home.
These anomalies can be signs of wasteful dissipation, which occurs when one spouse frivolously spends or gives away marital assets. When it happens, it’s often done in an attempt hide assets from the property division process of divorce.
In California, each spouse is entitled to 50% of community property, and wasteful dissipation is an unscrupulous way in which some might choose to put their thumbs on the scale. If successful in spending or hiding assets undetected, one spouse could effectively reduce what the other spouse would be otherwise entitled to receive in a divorce settlement.
How Do I Prove Wasteful Dissipation in My Divorce?
A key element of wasteful dissipation is that marital assets were lost for the responsible spouse’s personal gain or with the intent to financially harm the non-spending spouse. Generally, this means spending money on nonessential items or services when the marriage was already at an end.
Proving wasteful dissipation can be difficult in divorce cases, but there are steps you can take to support your claim.
Gather Evidence of Wasteful Dissipation
The first step is to gather evidence that supports your claim of wasteful dissipation. This may include bank statements, credit card bills, or other financial records that document the spending in question. Make sure to keep a record of when the expenditures were made and what was purchased. You'll also want to note any patterns or irregularities in the spending.
Find Any Witnesses
Another important step is to talk to witnesses who can support your claim. This could be anyone from friends and family members to business associates and former co-workers. They can provide insight into the financial decisions made by your spouse before or during the divorce process.
File Motions to Obtain Financial Records & Documents
Finally, you may need to file a motion with the court to allow discovery of any relevant documents. This could include subpoenas for financial records or other evidence that can be used in your case. The judge will consider the facts and arguments presented by both sides and decide whether wasteful dissipation occurred.
Proving wasteful dissipation is an important step in a divorce case, so take the time to gather all necessary evidence before you make your case. With diligence and perseverance, you can protect yourself and your assets during the divorce process.
What Happens If I Successfully Prove Wasteful Dissipation?
If you can prove wasteful dissipation, the court may order your spouse to reimburse you for any amount of money or assets that were dissipated. This could include ordering your spouse to pay you a lump sum or to return certain assets back to you.
Depending on the severity of the situation, the court may also award attorney's fees and costs associated with bringing the action. Furthermore, if it is found that your spouse acted recklessly or with malicious intent, punitive damages may also be awarded.
Ultimately, if proven, fighting wasteful dissipation can be an effective way to protect yourself from financial abuse during a divorce.
Contact a Lawyer for Legal Assistance
If you believe wasteful dissipation is a factor in your divorce, it’s important to consult with a divorce attorney who can help you address this issue. Our legal team at Cutter & Lax, Attorneys At Law can thoroughly investigate this matter and provide the legal advice and services you need to make the right decisions for you.
Learn more about how we can help during a consultation. Contact Cutter & Lax, Attorneys At Law online now to get started.