The dictionary definition of “dissipation” is waste by misuse, to spend or use wastefully or extravagantly, to squander, to deplete. The definition contained in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act refers to a spouse’s wasting of marital assets during while a marriage is undergoing an irretrievable breakdown. What does that mean?
In the case of Marriage of O’Neill, the court stated, “dissipation arises when property is improperly used for the sole benefit of one spouse, for a purpose unrelated to the marriage, at a time when the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown.” If a spouse spends marital money frivolously on items or individuals not related to the marriage while the marriage is breaking down, the other spouse may make a claim for dissipation in a divorce. In many cases, this arises when one spouse spends marital money on an extramarital affair, extravagant travel, and/or expensive hobbies, none of which benefit the marriage or family. Often a spouse does not learn of his or her partner’s dissipation until the discovery or information-finding step in the divorce.