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What constitutes dissipation of marital property?

In Colorado, family court judges divide a divorcing couple's marital property on an equitable basis. Generally, any assets either spouse acquired during the marriage are considered marital property, except those acquired through gift or inheritance. But what if one spouse intentionally dissipated marital property? Are there any remedies available to the other spouse?

Dissipation of assets basically means wasting or spending marital assets without the consent or knowledge of the other spouse. Dissipation reduces the marital property that is available for equitable division. Sometimes a spouse will intentionally dissipate assets out of spite, once divorce proceedings are commenced. Or the dissipation may have been going on for some time, as when a cheating spouse takes expensive trips with a girlfriend or boyfriend.

Some common forms of dissipation include spending money on an extramarital affair; losing money through excessive gambling; failing to maintain assets or allowing them to fall into disrepair; spending excessively on a hobby or pastime; and selling marital assets for significantly less than their real value.

It is important to keep in mind that for an expenditure to constitute dissipation, it generally must have been concealed from the other spouse or made without the other spouse's permission. If one spouse spent lavishly on a pastime like skiing or golf with the full knowledge and consent of the other spouse, it will not be considered dissipation.

If a spouse can prove dissipation of marital property, the court can award additional assets to the innocent spouse to offset the assets that were dissipated. A spouse who believes the other spouse dissipated marital assets may wish to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney.

Source: Huffington Post, "Financial Fraud and Divorce," Peggy L. Tracy, Oct. 2, 2015

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