Bamboozled? Read on if someone TOOK THE MONEY AND RAN in your Divorce- or if you're the one who is tempted!

It is a natural human tendency to want to protect what belongs to you, but what happens when something belongs to two people joined in marriage who are now headed towards separate lives? In a divorce situation, people often want to start spending money on luxuries and live it up a little bit, before it all gets divided. Aside from the many other reasons that people should be extra careful on how money is spent until the dust settles post- divorce, it is not a good idea to go on a spending frenzy for the purpose of keeping money away from the other, or for things unrelated to the family, because those habits could come back to bite the big spender in the end.

The other party to the divorce may notice that something is a little off... maybe right away or maybe not until after certain financial documents have been exchanged and reviewed with their attorney. Perhaps the bank account is carrying a much smaller balance than normal or the credit card charges are extraordinarily high. A claim could be made in the Illinois court during the  course of the divorce for what is called "dissipation".  Dissipation is the expenditure of marital funds on purposes unrelated to the marriage at a time when the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown. In other words, you are headed for splitsville and money starts to be used for things not related to the family- like money spent on a new love interest or on luxuries for oneself before the other person has a chance at it. 

It is not always clear cut as to what is related to the marriage. Some things are clearly not related but won't really count as dissipation if the other spouse has always acquiesced or allowed the expense. An example would be if one person has always sent money to his or her mother or contributed to the care of a relative. If it was always done and this is nothing new, it is unlikely to be considered dissipation which is more often the case when expenses unrelated to the marriage only come about for the first time once the marriage has begun to break down, which is the second requirement. 

When did the marriage break down? Again, not always clear cut. This is where courts sometimes have to look under the surface to get a sense of what was really going on when and why the money was spent. 

If you have spent money in a way that you believe, in your heart of hearts, was dissipation - discuss it with your attorney who can help you sort it out.  If you believe that your spouse has widdled away money - part of which was rightfully yours, your attorney can likewise advise you if a claim for dissipation exists. If a true dissipation claim exists in a divorce in Illinois, the lawyer for the party on the receiving end of it could demand reimbursement or repayment somehow.  Creative solutions exist at times to try and recover something that was already spent. For example, if your wife took $25,000 out of the savings account to take her boyfriend on vacation, and the money is spent, you may be able to ask for a larger share of another asset.  As with every other aspect of divorce, keep your eyes open and pay attention to what is going on. Discuss any concerns with your lawyer before too much time goes by.  For more information, give us a call or fill out a webform to schedule a confidential consultation

Carol O'Connor Cadiz
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Attorney & Owner at O'Connor Cadiz Law: Bankruptcy, Injury, Real Estate & Mediation