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How Can I Address Wasted or Destroyed Assets During My Divorce?

 Posted on October 09, 2023 in Divorce

Wasted or destroyed assetsIn a divorce, the division of assets is often one of the most contentious issues. All of the property a couple owns will need to be considered, and there needs to be a determination on who will be responsible for paying the debts the couple owes. As couples take steps to gain an understanding of their financial position, and make decisions about how assets and debts will be divided, one spouse may find that the other has wasted or destroyed assets. This can significantly impact the other spouse’s financial well-being, leaving them with limited resources or debts that need to be repaid. 

When one spouse takes actions that reduce the value of the marital estate, this is known as “dissipation of assets.” It is important for spouses to understand how this issue will be addressed in a Wisconsin divorce. To make sure assets can be valued correctly, and that asset dissipation will be considered when dividing assets and debts, it is important to work with an attorney who has a strong understanding of these issues and who has experience helping clients address and resolve financial issues during the divorce process.

Dissipation of Assets Under Wisconsin Law

Under Wisconsin law (Wis. Stat. § 767.63), assets that have been dissipated are known as “disposed assets,” and they may be considered during the property division process. This law states that any asset valued at $500 or more and that was removed from the marital estate within one year prior to the initiation of a divorce should be considered when dividing marital property. If property was sold to someone for less than its actual value, given away, wasted, destroyed, or is otherwise unaccounted for, it will need to be addressed when determining the full value of the marital estate. A spouse who committed dissipation may be responsible for the amount by which the total value of marital property was reduced.

Dissipation of assets may involve a variety of actions in which marital property was wasted or destroyed by one spouse without the knowledge or consent of the other spouse during the marriage. This can include spending money excessively on non-marital needs, gambling away marital funds, selling joint property at a significantly lower value than it’s worth, hiding assets from the other spouse, or intentionally damaging property.

In cases where a person believes that their soon-to-be ex-spouse has dissipated marital assets, they may have several options for addressing this issue:

  • Evidence gathering: To prove dissipation of assets under Wisconsin law, it is crucial to review financial records and uncover any evidence that demonstrates a pattern of wasteful behavior by a spouse. A forensic accountant may be able to review bank statements, business records, or other information. This may help prove that a spouse engaged in excessive spending, transferred money to personal accounts, or took other actions that caused the marital estate to decrease in value.

  • Filing an affidavit: After gathering sufficient evidence supporting a claim of dissipation, a spouse can prepare an affidavit detailing the allegations and submit it to the court overseeing their divorce proceedings.

  • Court evaluation: Upon receiving an affidavit, the court will evaluate the claims and determine if there is enough evidence to warrant further investigation or a potential adjustment in the division of assets.

  • Reimbursement or offset: If the court believes that there is sufficient evidence of asset dissipation, a spouse may be ordered to reimburse the marital estate for these losses. If necessary, offsets may be used when dividing marital property, and a spouse who committed dissipation may receive a smaller share of the marital estate. If dissipation has led to debts or liabilities, the court may decide that the spouse who committed dissipation will be solely responsible for paying these amounts.

Contact Our Experienced Milwaukee County Divorce Lawyers

If you suspect that your spouse has wasted or destroyed marital assets during your marriage, it is crucial to take swift action to protect your financial interests. The knowledgeable Milwaukee property division attorneys at Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP can help you navigate these issues successfully. We will work to uncover evidence of asset dissipation, and we will advocate for a fair division of marital property that will allow you to meet your financial needs. To learn more about how we can assist you with handling financial concerns and other legal issues during your divorce proceedings, contact us at 414-271-1440 and set up a free consultation.

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