At the end of a marriage, emotions are raw and tensions are sky-high. Unfortunately, this is when some people choose to blow off steam or punish their estranged spouse by spending a lot of money on themselves. The state of Illinois has a legal term for this, the dissipation of marital property. The Supreme Court of Illinois, as well as numerous Courts of Appeals, have defined dissipation as the “use of marital property for the sole benefit of one of the spouses for a purpose unrelated to the marriage at the time that the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown.”
Some examples of dissipation might be:
- Signing a lease for a brand new Lamborghini, when you have driven a used Jeep for the last decade.
- Buying a condo for a boyfriend or girlfriend.
- Taking scissors to valuable artwork.
- Failing to pay taxes or failure to make mortgage payments, resulting in a lien or foreclosure of the family home.
One consequence of dissipating the estate is that the court may order the culpable spouse to reimburse the estate in that amount that was improperly used, wasted, depreciated, or destroyed. This reimbursement can come in the form of the court giving more to the wronged spouse when dividing the marital estate.
Dissipation Time Frame
When a divorce court decides whether marital property has been dissipated, the first thing it must determine is when the beginning of the irreconcilable (or irretrievable) breakdown occurred. This is significant because the amount of dissipated money that a culpable spouse must reimburse to the estate is calculated from the date of the breakdown. If the spouse alleging dissipation did not know about it, then they may claim up to five years of dissipation prior to the filing of the divorce. If the spouse alleging dissipation knew or should have known of the dissipation, their claim may reach back three years.
Ordinary Living Expenses are NOT Dissipation
It is important to note that spending money on ordinary living expenses does not constitute a dissipation. Courts generally expect people to maintain their lifestyles that they held before the marriage broke down. So when looking at disputed expenditures, it is up to the courts to decide “if the funds were spent for legitimate family expenses, which were necessary and appropriate.”
If you are considering a divorce, contact me. For over twenty years, I have represented clients in the areas of family law, estate planning, and tax law. My team and I will zealously advocate for your interests and will use our wealth of knowledge and experience to guide you through this intense process. Call the Law Offices of Robert S. Thomas today at 847-392-5893 or visit our website to set up a consultation.