Dealing with The Issue of Dissipation (Excessive Spending of Marital Assets Claims) In Divorce
For some divorces, spending habits can become a serious issue; specifically, the issue of dissipation, which involves purposely spending extra marital funds while the marriage is going through a breakdown for one’s own benefit. There is no question that, in considering the division of marital assets and equitable distribution in states like Florida, intentional dissipation is one of the factors that the court will take into account as justification for unequal distribution. Once a divorce petition is filed, the administrative order prohibits both spouses from dissipating marital assets, therefore, issues involving dissipation typically arise when a couple knows that the divorce is imminent but before the petition is actually filed. For example, one spouse might transfer funds out of the marital estate or spend the funds on someone else in the form of hotel expenditures, gifts, questionable loans, etc.
Below, we discuss how dissipation works in Florida and how to protect yourself against it:
What Technically Qualifies as Dissipation? How Is It Brought Up in The Divorce Process?
In divorce, addressing dissipation works in the following way: The spouse alleging dissipation demonstrates that it has occurred, and the burden then shifts to the other spouse to try to prove that their excessive spending was for a legitimate purpose.
In some cases, the issue comes down to the word “intentional” in Florida’s law—in other words, dissipation is relevant as a justification for unequal distribution if it is intentional and after the filing of the petition or within two years prior to filing because this is how the statute is worded. Claims of dissipations are more convincing if the spending is substantial, frivolous, and unusual because that is more in accordance with “intentional.” The court will also look at how long and when a particular spending habit has occurred because those that occurred long before the divorce petition was filed cannot count due to the way that Florida law defines the timeframe for dissipation. For example, if the spouse has been spending money on a particular activity for 10 years, that does not fit into what the law provides, as the activity in question has to have occurred after the filing of the petition or within two years prior to the filing of the petition. This is why it is important to timely file for divorce in Florida so that you can start the clock on these types of claims in case there is abuse of funds involved in your divorce process.
What Happens If Dissipation Has Occurred?
If the court does find that one spouse dissipated funds, one way of addressing the issue is to add that amount back into the marital estate as though the funds have not been dissipated. The non-offending party would then typically make an argument for additional unequal distribution and perhaps even attorney’s fees in response to those actions to dissipate taken by the offending spouse.
How To Protect Yourself Against Dissipation: Work With The Very Best Florida Divorce Attorneys
These issues are extremely important, as there are a number of cases where one spouse has perhaps given up their career to take care of the family and home and thus, upon divorce, it is crucial to make sure that the marital estate is divided fairly so that it is not a loss of livelihood issue for that spouse.
If you have concerns about this dissipation, it is crucial that you and your attorney take those actions necessary to detect and prevent it, as a significant amount of damage can occur before the administrative order prohibiting both spouses from dissipating marital assets becomes effective.
In addition to ensuring that you file for divorce in a timely fashion so that the clock starts on what spending counts as potential dissipation, there are also several actions you can take to keep an eye out for frivolous spending, such as
- Keeping a close eye on joint credit card statements (keep in mind that some businesses will use obscure identifiers for charges to keep transactions purposely vague); and
- Consider consulting with a forensic accountant to look through your financials for anything suspicious.
Contact Us Today for Help
If you have any questions or concerns about divorce in Florida, contact the experienced Tampa divorce attorneys of HD Law Partners today to find out how we can help. Our family law attorneys serve clients in Sarasota, Tampa, Bradenton, and surrounding areas.