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Did your spouse diminish marital assets before the divorce?

Hawaii is among the majority of states that apply the equitable distribution standard to splitting your assets in a divorce. You probably already know that you will have to split the debts and assets acquired during your marriage with your ex once you file.

For many couples, the division of assets can lead to significant contention. In some cases, one spouse might even break the law in the hope of reducing how much their spouse gets from the marital estate. Some people will intentionally hide assets from their ex and the courts. Other times, people will waste marital assets in order to diminish how much the courts have to divide.

If you can show through personal evidence or financial records that your spouse intentionally diminished your marital estate, that could influence how the Hawaiian courts rule in your divorce proceedings.

What kinds of behavior constitute dissipation before and during a divorce?

The courts use the word dissipation to describe the act of diminishing the marital estate for personal gain or to penalize one’s former spouse. There are several different ways in which someone can engage in dissipation. Typically, allegations of dissipation apply to actions that have financial consequences for both spouses and do not benefit the marital union.

One of the most common forms of dissipation involves one spouse going on a spending spree when hearing that their spouse filed for divorce. Whether someone empties out bank accounts or racks up a massive balance on credit cards, that unnecessary spending could drastically reduce the assets available in the divorce.

Another form of dissipation involves giving away or even selling assets. One spouse could give items of significant value to people they know and trust with the intention of regaining those assets after the divorce. Some people will even give assets away to strangers because they’d rather lose the value of the item than share it with their spouse. Giving away or selling assets for far less than their fair market value is a form of dissipation that many people think they can get away with during divorce.

Finally, selfish or destructive financial habits that impacted the marriage negatively can also be a form of dissipation. If your spouse went on a gambling spree or if they spent thousands of dollars conducting an extramarital affair, those behaviors could potentially give you grounds to claim dissipation of your marital estate.

If you can substantiate such claims, the Hawaiian courts may adjust the property division decisions they make to reflect the amount of the marital estate that your spouse wasted or gave away.