What happens when a spouse dissipates assets before a divorce?

What is asset dissipation and how can I spot it?

Property division can lead to contention during divorce. If couples cannot come up with an agreement on their own, the courts will decide on their behalf. Courts in Pennsylvania use the legal theory of equitable distribution to guide property division determinations. This means the court will take many factors into consideration before it splits the property. These factors can include the length of the marriage, health of the parties, contribution of one party to the education or career advancement of the other, and the standard of living established during the marriage. The goal of the court is to provide a fair, not even, split.

But what happens when one party to the divorce has dissipated assets?

What is the dissipation of assets? The dissipation of assets refers to any active attempt by one party to lower the marital property with the goal of cheating the other party out of his or her rightful share of assets. Examples of dissipation of assets can include spending money on a new partner, gambling or transferring money to third parties with the intention it stay hidden until after the divorce.

How do I know if my spouse is attempting to diminish our marital assets? Watch credit card statements for unusual purchases and monitor bank accounts for unexpected withdrawals or transfers. In some cases, it can also be wise to hire a forensic accountant.

What can I do if I am a victim of the dissipation of marital assets? It is important to keep records to support the claim that the spouse is dissipating assets. It is also often beneficial to officially object to the dissipation attempts. When making an asset division determination in this type of case, the court will take many factors into account. One thing the court will generally consider is if one party benefited while dissipating the assets at the expense of the other party to the divorce. If so, the court can take the estimated dissipated amount into consideration when splitting the property. This can result in a larger award to the victim.

It is important to note that these matters are governed by state law. This piece focuses specifically on how the issue is addressed based on Pennsylvania state laws. It is also important to seek legal counsel experienced in the application of these laws when navigating these claims. An attorney can advocate for your interests and better ensure you receive your entitled assets.