Your Family Matters

How does dissipation of marital property impact a divorce case?

On Behalf of | Apr 16, 2024 | family law

Property division can be a difficult topic in any Illinois divorce. Since each side will likely want to retain various items from the marriage, it can be a challenge to come to a reasonable solution or one that the parties will accept.

Illinois uses an equitable distribution model. This means that the court will not simply split marital property in half 50-50, but will conduct a deeper analysis and try to allocate property in a way it believes is fair. While most will focus on the value of the property itself, it is also important to understand what dissipation means and how it will affect the property and its value.

Dividing property includes calculating dissipation

According to state law, marital property will be divided based on several factors including how each side contributed to its acquisition and value. That does not solely refer to finances. It can also relate to how much a person worked to improve the property after it was acquired. A marital home might have been decorated and enhanced by the person who did not make the larger financial outlay to purchase it. They could have been a key part of the spouse gaining education or building a business simply by being a homemaker. This will be important when property is split and how much each side receives when it is sold.

A party can claim the other party was guilty of dissipation of the marital property and it was used for reasons that had nothing to do with the marriage. If a person took money that was in a joint bank account and purchased frivolous things or gambled with it, then this would be considered dissipation. The same is true if the person started a new relationship before the end of the marriage and was buying gifts for that new relationship with family funds.

If there is an allegation that this has taken place, there are conditions that must be met. First, the person saying there was dissipation needs to file a notice of intent as to the claim 60 days before the trial commences or 30 days after discovery.

The court will need to know when the marriage reached the point of irretrievable breakdown making a divorce inevitable. The property that was dissipated must be identified with the approximate date it took place. There can be no dissipation if it happened three years after they were aware of it or should have been aware of it. Under no circumstances could it have been five years before filing for divorce.

People need to protect themselves when dividing property

If a divorce has become contentious and the parties are set to move on with their lives after it is irretrievably broken, it is not uncommon for a person to think the other has been irresponsible with marital property. That can lead to allegations of dissipation.

When this is part of the case, it is important to provide evidence as to what happened to try and hold the other person accountable. For help with this or any other area of family law, understanding the nuance and what steps can be taken is essential.