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When spouses engage in wasteful dissipation during divorce

On Behalf of | Dec 18, 2023 | Divorce

Indiana divorces are often fraught with conflict. People often have a hard time controlling their emotions during divorce. They may fight with one another intensely and engage in behavior that they usually would never consider. The misconduct of one spouse can potentially have a massively damaging impact on the other, especially when it comes to property division matters.

People sometimes engage in extreme behaviors with the specific intention of reducing what their spouse receives during the divorce proceedings. Some people spend months slowly hiding assets, such as income that should be in the marital checking account, so that their spouse cannot claim those resources during the divorce. Others engage in wasteful dissipation.

Dissipation diminishes the marital estate

The definition of dissipation is the wasteful spending or destruction of marital assets. Dissipation can also involve the intentional accumulation of debt to influence property division matters. Someone who is angry about a divorce filing or suspected adultery might intentionally destroy property that belongs to their spouse.

People may rip up clothing, smash electronics or burn personal property to ensure their spouse can’t keep it after the divorce. The intentional destruction of marital assets is an act of dissipation. So is intentionally selling marital property for well below its fair market value. Examples might include listing someone’s vehicle for sale via an online marketplace for $2,000 instead of the $15,000 it would be worth as a trade-in at a dealership.

Wasteful spending is also dissipation. Whether someone empties a bank account or maxes out credit cards, if they drastically alter their spending habits immediately before a divorce, those actions could influence property division. Finally, marital assets spent in a way that harms the marital relationship, such as funds spent on an extramarital affair, can also constitute dissipation.

Dissipation can affect court rulings

If spouses litigate property division matters, a judge must apply Indiana’s equitable distribution statute to their assets and debts. Typically, judges do not consider marital misconduct when deciding how to split property and debts. However, when there is evidence of dissipation, the judge may diminish what one spouse receives based on the value of the property they wasted or destroyed. It can, therefore, be a worthwhile endeavor to quantify the negative impact that someone’s conduct has had on the marital estate leading up to divorce proceedings.

Learning more about the rules that apply in Indiana divorces, and seeking legal guidance accordingly, can help people secure the fairest and most reasonable outcome possible when dissipation becomes an urgent matter of concern.