Many divorce litigants are accused of “dissipating” marital assets by their spouse or opposing counsel. Quite often, however, that term is misapplied. Those who have “dissipated” assets stand to have a credit assigned to them for the value of lost property. If you’ve been accused of dissipating marital assets, we can help.

“Dissipation,” just like “parental alienation,” is a buzz word with emotion attached to it. Does merely saying negative things about the other parent constitute parental alienation? No. Does losing the value of property during a marriage constitute dissipation of an asset? No.

To be clear, a dissipation claim in Minnesota involves two prongs. First, the conduct of a party must fall outside the scope of their normal course of dealing. Second, the conduct of a party must be done in anticipation of divorce.

Suppose Husband is an immigrant with family members in India. Suppose during the course of the marriage he routinely wired money to his family to help support them. If Wife files for divorce, does she have a claim for dissipation? Probably not – given Husband’s actions were consistent throughout the marriage. The sending of funds was a routine behavior.

Suppose Husband waited until five years into a seven-year marriage to start sending money to his family. Suppose Wife filed for divorce without prior discussion or counseling with Husband. Does she have a claim for dissipation? Probably not, so long as Husband was not aware that divorce was imminent

In the courtroom, evidence of a couple’s happiness, counseling (or lack thereof), and discussions often tips the scale one direction or another. If you are trying to pursue a dissipation claim, the odds of success are best if there is concrete evidence of marital discord and contemplation of divorce. When did your spouse first visit with a lawyer? When did they first threaten to dissolve the marriage? That type of information will prove useful.

Dissipation claims come in all shapes and sizes. Some involve small amounts of money, such as a few thousand dollars used for a vacation with a new significant other. Other dissipation claims can involve millions of dollars of losses in the stock market.

Careful, however, not to rush to judgment on a dissipation claim. Again, not all “waste” equates to dissipation.