What Constitutes Dissipation of Assets

Often divorce clients will report that their spouse is wasting or dissipating their hard-earned marital assets. In a recent 1st District Court of Appeals case, Walker v. Walker, the appellate court addressed this issue. The Former Husband in Walker received early lump sum distributions from his retirement account. In doing so, he also incurred early withdrawal penalties and taxes. The trial court found that the Husband dissipated the parties' marital assets. However, the appellate court did not agree and reversed the trial court’s decision. The appellate court laid forth the rule that trial courts must follow when determining if one spouse has dissipated or wasted the marital assets in a family law case. In order to determine that a spouse has dissipated marital assets, the trial court must make a specific finding of intentional misconduct based on evidence showing that the marital funds were used for one party’s own benefit and for a purpose unrelated to the marriage at a time when the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown. Misconduct is not shown by mismanagement or simple squandering of marital assets in a manner of which the other spouse disapproves. Here, the appellate court found that Mr. Walker’s removal of funds from his retirement account did not rise to the level of dissipation of marital assets. If you believe your spouse may have dissipated your marital assets, contact your expert family law attorney to set up a consultation to discuss your case further.