Often times in a marriage, one spouse will have the majority or exclusive control of the parties finances. In these situations, spouses are often surprised later in their marriage, or at the time of divorce, that a lot of the money the parties had allegedly saved over the years for retirement purposes has been severely depleted. In some situations, there may have been infidelity, which resulted in the dissipation of marital funds. In other situations, there may have been bad money management, credit cards, or alcohol or drug addictions. Either way, to find out that your life savings after a 20 plus year marriage is almost nothing can be devastating.
The first recommendation is to obtain as much information as you can in terms of account numbers, bank statements, receipts, and anything else that would be useful for an attorney to try and track the money. This will probably be easier when your spouse does not suspect that he or she’s been caught.
Secondly, hire an attorney and file for divorce if you have not already done so, and ask the court for a temporary injunction. This will at least prevent the further dissipation of funds while the attorneys figure out what happened to the rest of the money.
If the dissipation occurred during the time after the marriage broke down, and within a certain time period prior, you may be able to file a Notice of Dissipation and attempt to recover the funds.
The specific acts that constitute dissipation depends on the facts of the case. The most common scenario of dissipation includes the spending of marital funds on a new boyfriend or girlfriend. Other expenses found to be dissipation include buying things for yourself which are not reasonable and necessary, such as expensive jewelry, expensive clothing, new cars. Dissipation can also include mismanagement of a family business, excessive expenditures on hobbies, expensive vacations, failing to pay mortgage payments, and gifts to relatives. In some situations, attorneys fees have been found to be dissipation. Reasonable living expenses are usually not considered dissipation. The courts will also look as to whether the dissipating party intended to hide, deplete or divert the marital assets, and whether the other spouse agreed or acquiesced in the expenditure.
If you feel that you have a claim for dissipation against your spouse, it is important that you inform your attorney immediately as there are deadlines as to when to file a Notice of Dissipation. Furthermore, your attorney will need to do some discovery to obtain proof of dissipation. If you can prove that your spouse has removed marital funds, the burden falls on your spouse to prove that he or she did not dissipate said funds.