How to Prove That a Spouse Purposely Wasted Marital Assets
Sadly in family law cases, parties will often go to any length to conceal or hide assets, in order to try to manipulate alimony, child support, or distribution of marital assets. For some, there is an art and a science to trying to make assets or money mysteriously disappear just as a divorce becomes imminent. However, Florida’s equitable distribution laws do not make this as easy as it may sound.
How Money or Assets May Try to be Dissipated
Let’s assume that a husband and a wife are on the verge of divorce. The husband has money in a bank account, that he knows will be divided by a court when the parties divorce. Obviously, just buying something with the money does little good to hide the money, because whatever is bought can be subject to being sold by a court in a divorce.
Spouses often will try to sink money into a business to try to intermingle family money with business money (kind of like a money laundering scheme), but good forensic accounting can often discover this kind of thing, and doing so opens the company’s books up for discovery and inspection.
Some spouses will become suddenly very generous, opting to “gift” the money to friends and family, often with a tacit side agreement to return the money when the divorce is over.
Proving Waste and Dissipation
A spouse looking to show that the other spouse has purposely and intentionally hidden, gifted, or wasted marital assets in an effort to protect or hide those assets from being divided by a court, must first show that the actions were in fact hidden. That means that the other spouse cannot have agreed to spend or use the assets (such as if the parties agreed to spend money on a child’s tuition, or spend money to go on a vacation).
The expenditure or depletion of assets must come at a time when it was clear that the marriage was undergoing an “irreconcilable breakdown.” This can create problems for some spouses. On the one hand, it may be easier to keep a party’s intentions to file for divorce secret until the last minute. On the other hand, if the other spouse is in the dark about the pending divorce, any money spent, no matter how it is spent, will not be seen by a court as an intentional wasting of marital assets.
There also must be some kind of misconduct related to the depletion of assets. This usually means that the money is used for the benefit of only one spouse, and not for a purpose that benefits the marriage. The waste must be intentional; accidental loss of money, or good faith problems that cause money to be lost will not be considered misconduct.
Our Tampa divorce attorneys at the Pawlowski//Mastrilli Law Group can explain every step of the divorce process to you, and assist you in finding assets that may be hidden or wasted. Call us with any questions you may have.