Missing money and disappearing assets: How your spouse’s possible dissipation may impact your divorce - Gardi, Haught, Fischer & Bhosale LTD

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Missing money and disappearing assets: How your spouse’s possible dissipation may impact your divorce

By Blake Austin Culver.

When you review marital finances during a divorce, you may discover that marital money has gone missing and marital assets have disappeared without any explanation or justification from your spouse. This may be what is referred to as dissipation. Generally speaking, as stated in the Illinois case of Marriage of O’Neill [563 N.E.2d 494, 498-99 (1990)], dissipation “refers to the ‘use of marital property for the sole benefit of one of the spouses for a purpose unrelated to the marriage at a time that the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown.’”

What constitutes dissipation usually depends on the specific facts and circumstances of a particular divorce case. Some examples of dissipation may be when a spouse purchases lavish gifts, including jewelry and clothing, for a romantic third-party; takes expensive vacations with a romantic third-party; gambles recklessly, losing marital funds; liquidates or depletes investment accounts containing marital assets; or fails to pay the monthly mortgage on the parties’ residence. While the divorce is pending, a forensic accountant or other qualified expert could be retained to ascertain the extent and/or scheme of a spouse’s dissipation.  

Dissipation creates waste, which may adversely impact the scope and value of the parties’ overall marital estate. In the context of a dissolution of marriage case under Illinois law, the court “shall divide the marital property without regard to marital misconduct in just proportions considering all relevant factors, including … the dissipation by each party of the marital property” [750 ILCS 5/503(d)(2)].

There are possible legal remedies to dissipation. One possible legal remedy, as articulated in the Illinois case of Marriage of Partyka, [511 N.E.2d 676, 680 (1987)], is where a party had dissipated marital assets, “the court may charge the amount dissipated against his or her share of the marital property so as to compensate the other party.”     

While Illinois law on dissipation may be subject to change and/or further development, if you have any questions or concerns regarding your spouse’s possible dissipation, its impact on your divorce case, and/or its legal remedies, contact the law firm of Gardi, Haught, Fischer & Bhosale Ltd. You may request a free case evaluation below.   

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