Going through a marital separation is always challenging—even more so if you find out that your spouse is wasting money or property immediately prior to the divorce. The intentional or reckless waste or abuse of marital property is called the dissipation of assets, and it could be grounds for a remedy in the division of property. As you prepare for your divorce, here are the most important things you should know in order to recognize and address the dissipation of assets if necessary.
How Does Illinois Define Asset Dissipation?
In Illinois, the dissipation of marital property is broadly defined as the unreasonable or improper waste or abuse of jointly held assets for one spouse’s sole use. Under the state’s family law code, dissipation only occurs relatively shortly before a divorce petition was filed or after a divorce petition was already filed. Some specific examples of conduct that could constitute the improper dissipation of marital assets include:
Major gambling losses
Significant spending on alcohol or drugs
Illicit attempts to hide or conceal assets
Racking up credit card charges
Extravagant and unreasonable personal spending
Funds to support an extramarital affair
Illinois is an Equitable Property Division State
We live in an equitable distribution state. In effect, this means that courts will divide marital assets and marital debts in a manner deemed fair to both parties. In some cases, a 50-50 split is determined to be an equitable division of assets. However, there is no requirement that family courts must split assets evenly. Quite the contrary, a court has the authority to decide that an unequal division of property is the equitable result.
Dissipation of Assets is a Relevant Factor in Property Division
Notably, courts can consider each spouse’s financial conduct after the marriage broke down when applying the equitable distribution standard. Under Illinois law (750 ILCS 5/503(d)), courts should consider all relevant factors when determining the proper division of marital assets, including “the dissipation by each party of the marital property.”
If dissipation has occurred, an Illinois court has the authority to award a financial remedy to the other spouse. Generally, this remedy is applied during property distribution. In other words, a court will award a greater share of the marital assets to the spouse who did not waste or abuse the marital property. Alternatively, the court may assign a larger share of the debt—such as reckless credit card debt—to the spouse who incurred those losses through improper and unreasonable spending.
Contact Our St. Charles Property Division Lawyers
At Goostree Law Group, our Illinois family law attorneys have the skills and experience to protect your rights. If you have concerns about the dissipation of your marital assets, we are available to help. Contact us at 630-584-4800 for a free, confidential consultation with a Kane County property division attorney.