The Dangers of Squandering Marital Property in a Divorce

The Dangers of Squandering Marital Property in a Divorce

Pierre Domercq Divorce

What are the dangers of squandering marital property in a divorce?  When approaching the end of a marriage, especially one in which an affair or other emotional event has occurred it is not unusual for a hurt spouse to go on a spending spree.  What is the harm in driving up credit card balances or emptying marital accounts if you think a divorce is on the horizon?

In California, spouses have a “fiduciary duty” to one another until the final divorce decree is issued.  This means they must act in the other’s best interest in all aspects of community property.  Community property is comprised of all assets of including, but not limited to:

  • Bank and investment accounts
  • Retirement accounts
  • Real estate
  • Collections
  • Automobiles, boats and other vehicles

When a spouse experiences anger or jealousy and thoughts turn to revenge a spending spree is a common recourse.  Unfortunately, this is legally known as the “dissipation of marital assets,” and it carries stiff consequences.  Under California’s community property laws each spouse is entitled to an equal distribution of community property.   Dissipation of marital assets isn’t only left to the realm of the injured spouse.  A cheating partner may spend lavishly on their lover or provide money for housing and other expenses.  In any event, the dissipation of marital assets will be reconciled during the process of a divorce.

At the outset of the procedure, the issuance of divorce papers from the North County Family Law Courts usually includes direct orders concerning the actions of each party.  These orders directly confront the potential dissipation of assets.  So, if these steps are taken before the divorce, isn’t the offending spouse going to get away with it?

Not at all.  The dangers of squandering marital property in a divorce extend to actions before the divorce was filed.  Once a party has established the other squandered marital assets or ran up credit cards the judge may assign half of these values or more to be deducted from the offending spouse’s share of the community property.  If the party attempts to hide these misdeeds judges tend to look more harshly upon their actions and levy stiffer consequences.