Dissipation Of Assets is the phrase Florida courts use to describe wasteful, concealing, or other non-marital expenditure of what was previously a marital asset.
Courts make a finding of dissipation of assets when “one spouse use[d] martial funds for his or her own benefit and for a purpose unrelated to the marriage at a time when the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown.” Romano v. Romano, 632 So. 2d 207, 210 (Fla. 4th DCA 1994)
Examples of dissipation of assets are:
- Transferring stocks to your brother’s name. Amos v. Amos, 99 So. 3d 979, 980(Fla. 1st DCA 2012)
- Spending money on illegal drugs. Huntley v. Huntley, 578 So. 2d 890 – Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 1st Dist. 1991
- Gambling Losses. Zambuto v. Zambuto, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 2nd Dist. 2011
- Expenses paid for a boyfriend or girlfriend. Matti v. Matti, 647 So. 2d 168 – Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 2nd Dist. 1994
- Forging a spouse’s signature to get a loan or investment. Mills v. Mills, 192 So. 3d 515 (Fla. 5th DCA 2016)
Once dissipation of marital assets is found, the court has permission to award the other party an unequal share of the marital estate. Typically, the court awards one half of whatever the dissipation was because that’s what the other spouse would have received had there been no dissipation. For example, if a husband was found to have lost $ 20,000 gambling after the marriage had begun its irreconcilable breakdown, the court would award the wife $ 10,000.
“In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage…the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors, including… The intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition.” Fla. Stat. Sec 61.075(1)(i)
The alleged dissipation must occur within the window of time that the statute prescribes: 2 years before the filing to the present date. If your spouse was always a drug, gambling or sex addict, you cannot count those expenditures in your dissipation claim that are more than two years in the past.
In order to award a party an unequal share of marital assets because of the other party’s dissipation, the court must make a finding of misconduct by the dissipating spouse. Pansky v. Pansky, 204 So. 3d 517 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016). It is not enough to simply say, “he lost the money. We don’t know where the money is now, therefore, it is dissipation.” “Mismanagement or simple squandering of marital assets in a manner of which the spouse disapproves.” Is not sufficient to prove dissipation. Levy v. Levy, 900 So. 2d 737. It has to be proven where the money was spent and how.
Dissipation is the only way to punish a spouse for bad behavior such as cheating or drug use. A court cannot award an unequal distribution of assets just because one of the parties’ behavior was egregious and especially hurtful. “Absent a showing of a related depletion of marital assets, a party’s misconduct is not a valid reason to award a greater share of marital assets to the innocent spouse.” Heilman v. Heilman, 610 So.2d 60, 61 (Fla. 3d DCA 1992)
In my personal experience with dissipation claims, they are often not worth the money to possibly collect on the dissipation. The dissipation is almost always due to addiction and addicts are extremely secretive and deceptive people. Drugs, gambling and sex are often paid for in cash, which is usually untraceable for the purposes of a dissipation claim. The only exception to this secrecy issue is probably casinos who you can subpoena for records if the person has an account at the casino or is part of the casino’s rewards program.
Dissipation claims quickly become a game of “gotcha.” Unless the egregious behavior is obvious and recorded, the court will not order a full recovery. Because of this risk, the expense of attorneys’ fees must be weighed against the half of the dissipation you may recover.
To find out if you have a dissipation claim and if your dissipation claim is worth pursuing contact my Naples, Florida office for a free consultation to learn more.