Dissipation in Divorce Proceedings


The issue of whether or not dissipation has occurred in a divorce case continues to remain at the forefront of many property disputes. As recently as December 2000, the very well respected Fourth District Illinois Appellate Court wrestled with the issue of Dissipation in the Carter case.

The definition of dissipation is, “The expenditure of marital funds on purposes unrelated to the marriage at a time when the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown.” Marital funds mean any and all assets or earnings acquired during the marriage. There are two difficult factors in determining whether dissipation exists:

  1. Whether the marriage had been undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown at the time marital funds were spent by one of the parties; and
  2. Whether or not the expenditure of funds was for a purpose unrelated to the marriage.

Dissipation can be a very effective tool in a divorce case because once a spouse claims that the other has committed Dissipation, it is incumbent on the other spouse to present clear and specific evidence that no Dissipation has taken place.

For example, assume Susan is a wealthy doctor who is married and has two children with her husband, Alfred. While married to Alfred, Susan begins dating a nurse named Tommy. Susan eventually stops coming home at night and ends up having children with Tommy while still married to Alfred. Furthermore, Tommy, who has been working at Beverly Hillbilly Hospital for $35,000.00 annually quits his job and goes to work as Susan’s private nurse at a salary of $95,000.00. Three years later, Susan’s husband, Alfred, files for divorce and claims dissipation of marital funds by Susan, because Susan has been paying exorbitant marital funds to her boyfriend, Tommy the nurse. Does Dissipation exist?

Alfred’s argument is that Susan had been depleting marital assets by overpaying Tommy $60,000.00 as a nurse at the time that his marriage to Susan was undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown. Alfred is going to ask for reimbursement of funds to the marital estate. Susan is going to claim that Tommy is a “top-notch nurse” and was entitled to a $60,000.00 raise when he came to work for her. Do you think Dissipation will be proved in this case?

Other examples in Illinois in which Dissipation has been found are as follows:

  1. Husband traveled to Las Vegas and lost money while the marriage was in the middle of an irreconcilable breakdown;
  2. Husband moved out of the marital residence, purchased a second home during his divorce proceedings, and purchased furniture for his new home;
  3. Husband had been dating another woman and purchased a Mink coat for her, as well as gave her $30,000.00 to open a beauty salon while he was still married to his wife;
  4. Husband took a vacation with his girlfriend, paid for her plane ticket and the hotel room while his marriage was going through an irreconcilable breakdown;
  5. Husband bought his girlfriend a car while his marriage was going through an irreconcilable breakdown.

Illinois courts have held that the issue of Dissipation depends upon the facts in each case. If you are involved in a divorce proceeding and you suspect that your spouse has a “significant other,” be sure to have your attorney investigate the issue of Dissipation.

Contact the Law Offices of Michael P. Doman, Ltd. for your divorce attorney needs.

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