Section 503 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act requires that a court divide the marital property in just proportions considering all relevant factors, including, among other things, the dissipation by each party of the marital property. Legally, a spouse dissipates (or wastes) marital assets when he or she:
- uses marital property
- for his or her own benefit
- for a purpose unrelated to the marriage
- while the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown.
In order to prove dissipation, all four of the above elements must be shown. Dissipation can manifest itself in several ways, such as concealing assets, transferring them, selling them, spending money, or incurring debt without the other spouse’s knowledge or consent. For example, the Illinois Appellate Court has found dissipation in the following circumstances:
- In the case of Marriage of Thomas, the husband dissipated marital property by causing the devaluation of a marital business through his inattention to the quality of service that the company was supplying its clients, his failure to solicit additional clients, and by stealing clients for his new business, even though he did not gain any personal benefit.
- In Marriage of Gurda, the husband’s committed dissipation by taking marital funds and investing them in a company that became insolvent, without informing his wife. He sold marital property, settled a lawsuit and a workers’ compensation claim, and took out home equity loan secured by marital residence. The funds were subsequently lost as a result of the bad investment.
- In Marriage of Aslaksen, the husband dissipated marital assets when he failed to make court-ordered mortgage payments, and as a result the marital home went into foreclosure.
- In Marriage of Landfield, the husband removed $200,000 from common cash fund account.
- In certain circumstances, one spouse’s use of marital funds for expenses following irretrievable breakdown of marriage may be shown to be so selfish and excessive as to constitute a dissipation of marital funds, which may be considered in dividing marital assets following dissolution. See Marriage of Blunda.
- Transfer of property, even non-marital property, for inadequate consideration may constitute dissipation, and the court may enjoin attempted dissipation of assets. Wood v. Wood.
- In Marriage of Charles, the husband dissipated marital assets by spending in excess of $116,000 on an extramarital relationship, liquidating investments, and failing to satisfy tax debt, thereby incurring over $26,000 interest and penalties.