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My Spouse is Wasting Our Marital Assets

Posted by J. Benjamin Stevens | Mar 03, 2020 | 0 Comments

spouse is wasting money in divorce
Photo Credit: Michael Longmire

In my twenty-five years of practicing in the Family Courts of South Carolina, I like to think I've seen it all, but I'm always at a loss when I see the poor financial decisions some people make when they learn that a divorce is coming. It's always a sad story, but considering there are often so many emotions, hurt feelings, disappointments, and anger that are often wrapped in a divorce, it isn't uncommon for a husband or wife to act out by starting to spend or waste money in an attempt to simply hurt the other party as badly as they feel they have been hurt. In other cases, once we've been hired, we find evidence the marital funds have been wasted on affairs, substance abuse, or other hidden spending sprees. That money, according to the Family Court, must later be accounted for during the divorce proceedings, so this behavior won't go unnoticed. That begs the question that we often get from our clients and potential clients, what happens when such bad behavior occurs? How do courts look at behavior which wastes marital assets? 

How do courts look at behavior which wastes marital assets? 

The Family Court considers this type of behavior as deliberate "dissipation of marital assets" or when one or both parties spend martial funds frivolously or unjustifiably. However, this involves more than just poor money management. To rise to the level of "dissipation," the spouse must have acted intentionally. For example, when a husband begins to buy expensive gifts for a mistress or the children, or even himself and maxing out the joint credit cards on a revenge spending spree, the Family Court will likely consider these things as evidence of intentional wasting of marital assets. This is because the assets that were spent by the husband would have otherwise been distributed in the couple's equitable distribution of the marital assets during the divorce process.

What happens when a spouse dissipates the assets?

The Family Court can do several things when the dissipation of marital assets occurs, and exactly what happens will depend on the particular facts of the case. Different states also handle this issue in different ways, but in South Carolina, when one spouse wastes marital assets on an affair or other similar situation, the court will typically reduce that person's equitable distribution award in the divorce to reimburse the innocent spouse. This means that instead of the spouses each receiving 50% of their joint assets, the innocent person will receive a larger percentage of the marital estate to compensate them for the lost assets during the case. The Family Court may also make an award for attorneys' fees for bad behavior by one spouse that unnecessarily increased the attorneys' fees of the other spouse - which tracking down wasted assets would most certainly do for the innocent party.

How can your firm help me if my spouse is wasting our marital assets?

Our attorneys are specially trained to carefully review the marital financial documents to determine the true value of the marital estate as of the date of filing in the case, which is the most important date for valuing assets in Family Court in South Carolina. We work closely with our clients to determine regular spending habits during the marriage and will help document for the court any financial arguments to ensure our clients are awarded the portion of the marital estate they are entitled to receive.

The Stevens Firm, P.A. - Family Law Center has provided exceptional legal counsel and support to families throughout South Carolina for over twenty-five years, handling all matters of family law, such as child custody, child support, and divorce. We are well-equipped to handle all divorce and family law matters, no matter your circumstances. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.

About the Author

J. Benjamin Stevens

Senior Partner

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