How Does a Spouse’s Wasting of Marital Assets Affect a Divorce?

When it comes to dividing property in a divorce, New York is an equitable distribution state. Most of the assets and debts acquired by either spouse during the marriage are considered marital property and are divided fairly, though not necessarily equally. The judge will take various factors into consideration in making an equitable distribution, such as the spouses’ relative contributions to the marriage, the age of the spouses and the ability of each spouse to earn an income after the divorce.

Among the factors that the judge may consider during equitable distribution is whether one spouse wastefully dissipated marital assets. This means one spouse spent marital funds or caused the value of marital assets to decrease through recklessness or self-dealing.

A judge may find wasteful dissipation to have occurred in a number of situations, such as these:

  • A spouse sells marital property at prices below fair market value, typically to friends or relatives, which indicates the transfers may be fraudulent.
  • A spouse goes on a spending spree before filing for divorce, without the knowing consent of the other spouse.
  • A spouse neglects to maintain marital property, such as real estate, thereby causing or allowing its value to diminish.
  • A spouse decides not to work or otherwise earn income and withdraws funds from joint accounts for living expenses.

A common instance of dissipation of marital assets is when one spouse is having an affair and spends marital funds on travel, gifts or payment of rent or other expenses for the paramour. Although adultery is not a factor in determining equitable distribution, the costs of an adulterous relationship might be.

Part of the equitable distribution process is determining to what extent the offending spouse has caused marital assets to diminish. The judge will place a value on the dissipated assets and add that value to the marital property being divided, on the theory that the injured spouse should have had the opportunity to use those assets. The fact that waste has occurred may favor the injured spouse in the distribution.

The Law Office of Maurice J. Verrillo, P.C. in Rochester understands the emotional toll of divorce and will work diligently to protect your property rights while mitigating the stress of the process. Call us at 585-563-1134 or contact us online to receive a free 30-minute initial consultation.


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