Proving That Your Spouse Is Guilty of Wasteful Dissipation

What Is Wasteful Dissipation?

The term wasteful dissipation refers to intentionally or recklessly spending, destroying, or depleting marital assets. One spouse commits this act without the other's consent. Usually, a spouse commits wasteful dissipation when they see a divorce is coming. They want to leave the other spouse with little property left over to split. Generally, wasteful dissipation has no benefit to the one committing it. It is simply a spiteful act used to harm a spouse in a divorce.

Remember, spouses share all property, regardless of who purchased it. Wasteful dissipation is not the act of making expensive purchases. That property would be split in a divorce.

Wasteful dissipation is money you can’t get back. When a spouse intentionally dissipates, they spend on lavish vacations, gambling sprees, gifts to others, and so on.

To prove wasteful dissipation, you need evidence that demonstrates the timing, nature, and intent behind the expenditures.

Your goal is to prove:

  1. Your spouse intentionally wasted money.
  2. They spent this money without your consent.
  3. They spent this money for the purpose of leaving you little to divide in your divorce.

The Potential Legal Consequences of Wasteful Dissipation

Adjustments to Property Distribution

Generally, California courts strive to divide marital assets equally in a divorce. Each spouse gets 50% of the property and debt.

However, when a spouse proves wasteful dissipation, judges have the discretion to compensate the wronged spouse. They can treat a family court more like a civil court, and they can award a larger share of the remaining assets to the victim. Similarly, they may give a greater portion of the debt to the wasteful spouse.

Influence on Spousal Support Awards

Wasteful dissipation can influence alimony decisions. If the court finds a spouse guilty of dissipation, it may increase support payments to the victimized spouse. Doing so helps financially protect the victim, and it holds the wasteful spender responsible for their actions.

Proving Wasteful Dissipation in Court

Gathering Evidence

Financial Records

Building a case of wasteful dissipation requires collecting financial evidence. You’ll want to gather all accessible financial records, including bank statements, credit card receipts, loan applications, and transaction histories. The goal is to establish a pattern of spending that diverges from the couple's usual financial behavior, especially if the spending occurred without mutual consent.

You are looking for:

  • Suspicious transfers
  • Irregular, large withdrawals
  • Spending that goes beyond the couple's standard lifestyle

Any additional documentation that provides context to these transactions, such as emails or text messages, can be invaluable in painting a picture of financial impropriety.

Expert Witnesses

Financial experts can play a pivotal role in proving wasteful dissipation. These expert witnesses can help you present these findings in court, lending credibility to your claims. Their testimony can be the linchpin of a case. They help the court understand the nuances of financial behavior and the significance of the evidence.

Forensic Accountants

Forensic accountants are skilled at unraveling complex financial webs. They help you identify and quantify wasteful expenditures. These professionals can trace funds, analyze spending patterns, and provide a clear, professional assessment of financial activities.

Proving Intent and Recklessness

To prove wasteful behavior, you must demonstrate that the spending was intended to reduce the marital estate. It cannot be the result of poor financial decisions or mismanagement.

This distinction is crucial. To prove wasteful dissipation, you must convince the court that there was a deliberate or reckless disregard for the marital assets.

Evidence of intent includes:

  • Secretive behavior
  • Admissions of intent
  • The timing of the expenditures, particularly as it relates to divorce proceedings

Crafting a Persuasive Argument

A wasteful dissipation claim must be strategic and well-founded.

A persuasive legal argument hinges on the following:

  • Expert testimony
  • The ability to weave together financial records
  • A narrative that clearly demonstrates the wasteful intent of the other spouse
  • Highlighting the discrepancies between the couple's established financial habits and the questionable transactions
  • Explaining the timing and nature of the spending, making it clear how these actions demonstrate deliberate depletion of marital assets

A strong argument should leave little room for doubt, convincing the court that the division of assets should be adjusted accordingly.

Common Defenses Against Wasteful Dissipation Claims

When making a wasteful dissipation claim, you should be prepared for your spouse to argue back. If they are willing to commit dissipation, they probably don’t want to take responsibility for it.

You should be prepared to argue against common defenses such as:

  • Claiming that you consented to the spending
  • Claiming that the expenditures were necessary for the couple's lifestyle
  • Arguing that the spending was related to legitimate investments or business ventures

To effectively counter these defenses, you need to prove that there was a clear break from normal financial practices, and you need evidence that you were unaware of or expressly opposed to the spending.

Preparing for defenses against your claims can strengthen your position and help the court see the truth.

If you suspect your spouse is intentionally wasting money before a divorce, Burch Shepard Family Law Group is here to help. We can investigate the facts of your case and help you uncover evidence of wasteful dissipation. To meet with our team, contact us online or call our office at (949) 565-4158.