As you may very well know, not all divorces end amicably. Jealousy, anger and greed are motivators that can make the process of divorce more complicated than it already is. A common way one spouse attempts to hurt the other is through “wasteful dissipation,” defined as the intentional act of squandering marital property to prevent an innocent spouse from getting their fair share of it in the divorce settlement.

Wasteful Dissipation Examples

While it is ultimately up to the courts to decide what constitutes wasteful dissipation of marital assets, these are a few examples commonly characterized as wasteful:

  • Excessive gambling
  • Uncontrolled shopping
  • Spending excessive amounts of money on drugs, alcohol and parties
  • Loaning or giving away large amounts of money to family and friends
  • Intentionally failing to preserve assets, such as failing to make a car payment on time so it goes into foreclosure
  • Selling property for significantly less than its value
  • Spending money on an extramarital affair

How to Determine Wasteful Dissipation

Now that you know what to look for, you will need to identify each expenditure if you plan on making a claim. If you have a joint account, check out the statements for discrepancies or unusual spending. Keep in mind the spending must be impactful; you can’t go to court with a statement showing your spouse spent $20 on lottery tickets and expect to get compensated.

In addition to unusual spending, look out for wire transfers, electronic payments to accounts you don’t recognize and ATM withdrawals. These are sneaky ways to take large amounts of money out of a joint account without leaving an obvious paper trail.

How It Affects a Court Ruling

Courts will look at wasteful spending, known as a negative contribution, when considering equitable distribution. They will determine if the conduct constitutes wasteful dissipation by looking at intent, whether or not the actions were concealed and the time the conduct occurred (right before divorce or years before).

If the court decides the spending was indeed wasteful dissipation, they may charge the value of the assets dissipated against the wasteful spouse’s share, reducing the amount they receive. However, if the wasteful spouse has a history of spending money on gambling and drugs and the non-wasteful spouse took no action to prevent it, the judge may decide to have both spouses share in the loss.

Contact Our Divorce Lawyers

Our St. Louis County divorce lawyers can help you determine if your spouse is guilty of wasteful dissipation of your marital assets. Irresponsible spending can affect your divorce settlement, so it’s important to speak with one of our attorneys. At Coulter Lambson, we handle all kinds of family matters, including divorce, paternity, child custody, property division and domestic violence. You can start your case today with no obligation by requesting a free consultation.

Call (314) 309-2377 or contact us online to speak to a lawyer! We have locations in Clayton and St. Charles.