When you ask for a divorce, you can tell that your spouse is not pleased. But they also know that they can’t stop you from getting a divorce if that’s what you want, so they agree to go through the process with you.
The problem comes when you notice that your spouse has given away some of the assets that the two of you owned as a couple. This is concerning to you, knowing that those assets are supposed to be divided in the divorce. Why is your spouse doing this? There are two potential reasons.
Sometimes, spouses will go to great lengths in order to try to hide assets. They may think that by getting those assets out of their names, they won’t have to disclose them as part of the divorce process. Your spouse could have spent the months leading up to the divorce doing this in an effort to keep some of that money from going to you. Or they may believe that assets in their own name belong only to them, rather than to the marital community.
But wouldn’t that mean your spouse also lost the money? Not necessarily; if your spouse is giving away assets as a tactic to keep the money from you, they might have an agreement with the person to whom they give that money that they will get it back after the divorce is final. For instance, if your spouse suddenly gives $10,000 to a sibling with little explanation, or if they sell a valuable vehicle to a buddy for a nominal payment, that could be their long term goal.
The dissipation of marital assets
Sometimes, a spouse may try to spend or get rid of assets simply out of spite. They have no expectation that they’re going to get those assets back (and if the money was spent, doing so may be impossible). But they would rather give up those assets than have to divide them with their spouse. This type of dissipation is not particularly common, but consider, for example, a situation where a spouse decides to spend all of the marital savings prior to filing for divorce. Maybe they used the funds for a beneficial purpose, such as paying off debt. Or maybe they paid cash for a vehicle that devalued the moment they drove it off the lot. In either event, assets that you may have expected to share may be gone or reduced in value.
What is Marital Waste?
Fortunately, there may be a remedy for certain types of dissipation of marital assets. Marital waste occurs when one spouse deliberately spends, gives away or otherwise squanders community assets, whether or not their intention is to deprive the spouse of their share. Although marital waste is a complicated legal concept and can be even more complicated to prove to a court’s satisfaction, this claim can be a way to recover for a spouse’s misuse of marital assets.
If you find yourself in this position and you believe your spouse has hidden or squandered marital assets or that they intend to do so, it’s crucial for you to consult with an experienced attorney to understand all the legal options you have.