What is dissipation and why should you be aware of it in a divorce proceeding?

Keeping track of your finances is a key aspect during your divorce proceeding. Specifically, your attorney will ask for all of your credit card and bank statements from a specific period of time during the discovery phase of your divorce proceeding. Collecting and organizing your financial records is important in order to see how you and your spouse spend your money. Another reason to collect your financial records is to see if your spouse has dissipated your marital assets. According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, dissipation of marital assets occurs when one spouse uses money or assets for purposes unrelated to the marriage when the marriage has "irretrievably or irreconcilably broken." The dictionary definition of dissipation is waste by misuse, to spend or use wastefully or extravagantly, to squander, to deplete. In other words, if your spouse spends marital money frivolously on items not related to the marriage while the marriage is breaking down, you, the other spouse may make a claim for dissipation in a divorce through your attorney.

Dissipation usually arises when one spouse spends marital money on an extramarital affair, extravagant travel and vacations, gifts or anything else that does not benefit your marriage. Often, a spouse does not learn of the other spouse’s dissipation until the discovery phase of the divorce, which is when your attorney asks for your financial records, among other documents. Your attorney will flag or mark any suspicious spending by your spouse and ask your spouse for an explanation of said spending. During the process of your divorce case, when the court is determining what would be a fair and equitable division of marital assets and debts to each party, the court may consider the spouses’ dissipation, or waste, of the marital estate. However, if you, a spouse, believes that your spouse has in fact dissipated your combined marital estate, then you, through your attorney, must file a Notice of Intent to Claim Dissipation with the court. It is important to inform your attorney if you believe your spouse has used your marital funds or estate on anything besides your marriage so your attorney can look out for any skeptical spending by your spouse during the discovery phases of your divorce proceeding.

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