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Wasteful Dissipation of Assets in Divorce


Divorce is rarely an enjoyable experience. That said, even if a couple has reached a point where they despise one another on a truly nuclear level, it’s usually not the case that one spouse is actively trying to destroy the other for pleasure. Still, couples do find creative ways to express their hurt and sense of betrayal once they know their marriage is ending. In some cases, a spouse may take drastic and harmful actions even before divorce is a certainty, whether to vent their anger, let off steam, or just because they can.

One such harmful action that we sometimes see is known as the wasteful dissipation of marital assets. This is exactly what it sounds like: purposely wasting money and other marital property for one’s own benefit, and to prevent one’s spouse from obtaining his or her fair share of property division. There may be a legitimate reason for disposing of particular assets, but if you cannot show one, there may be serious consequences.

There are various ways to waste assets in a marriage, in a manner that can later be penalized in a divorce. Some of the more common include:

  • Giving property away to friends, family, or even through making sizable donations to charities or other causes.
  • Intentional overspending through shopping sprees or making extravagant purchases.
  • Reckless spending such as gambling away assets or purposely making poor investments.
  • Intentionally allowing real or personal property to fall into disrepair to cause a substantial decrease in value, or even failing to make mortgage or other installment payments resulting in foreclosure or repossession.
  • Engaging in costly extramarital affairs that include elaborate gift-giving, vacations, or even purchasing a residence for a paramour.
  • Frequent travel to exotic locations with luxury accommodations and excursions.

Whether wasteful spending was a contributing factor to the marriage ending, or it has become a tool for denying the other spouse his or her fair share of marital assets, the court will take it into consideration when determining the division of marital assets. If a spouse is found to have wasted marital assets, they will see their equitable distribution reduced in kind. For example, if a husband squandered $50,000 at the track over a particularly bleak weekend, his wife may be entitled to recoup $25,000 – her half – during the divorce.

At the commencement of a divorce, an order is automatically issued on both parties restraining them from wrongly encumbering, disposing or, and wasting marital assets during the divorce process. This doesn’t always stop a party who is determined to deprive his or her spouse from doing so, but there are certainly ramifications for violating a court order. A violating spouse may be held in contempt, fined, or see a larger portion of the marital estate carved out and awarded to the deprived spouse.

Divorce can be a challenge. Choosing the right New York City divorce lawyer to represent your best interests need not be. Let Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein LLP help you protect what is yours. To reserve a consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys, call (212) 466-6015 or reach out to us through our contact form today. We maintain offices on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, in White Plains, and in Hackensack, NJ.