For many couples, the asset division process is one of the most complex and contested areas of an impending divorce. For couples with substantial assets, including a home, vacation properties, investment and retirement accounts, and more, it’s common to disagree about what is fair. That generally means that the courts will need to step in and make the decisions for you.

The courts will look at the sum of your marital assets, as reported via both spouses, and seek to arrange terms for asset division that are equitable and fair. However, certain conditions can make the outcome of a court-based asset division less fair to everyone involved.

For example, if one spouse intentionally hides assets from one’s partner or the courts, that could lead to an unbalanced and unfair outcome. Another issue that can impact the fairness of your asset division is dissipation of marital assets by one spouse.

What is dissipation of marital assets?

At its most basic, dissipation is the intentional squandering of marital assets in a way that does not benefit the marriage. Typically, all income and assets acquired during marriage are marital property in Florida, meaning that they belong to both spouses. If one spouse feels like that is unfair or doesn’t want to share those assets with their spouse, that can lead to intentionally wasting funds or giving away assets to avoid their division by the courts.

Thankfully, the courts recognize dissipation as a serious issue that can lead to an unfair outcome in divorce. They will consider any dissipation that occurred after one partner files for divorce, as well as any dissipation within the two years prior to filing for divorce.

Know and watch out for the common forms of dissipation

One of the most common ways that spouses waste marital funds is by conducting an affair before divorcing. People can spend hundreds or many thousands of dollars to keep an affair hidden. Rent on an apartment, hotel stays, expensive dinners, vacations with an extramarital partner and gifts can quickly add up. The courts will very likely consider any funds spent on an affair in the two years prior to divorce dissipation and factor that into their decision about assets.

Another, slightly sneakier, version of dissipation involves one spouse giving away or selling valuable items to friends, co-workers and family members to remove them from the marital estate. He or she may later regain those items and continue to enjoy their value.

If you have documentation that your spouse has gifted valuable items from your marital estate without your consent or that he or she sold assets at below the market value, that can also help establish a pattern of intentional dissipation of marital funds.