Protecting assets in a divorce becomes critical if one spouse is out for revenge or determined to “win” at all costs. So what can you do if you suspect that your spouse is hiding marital assets or selling off property without your knowledge? The first thing to do is to get proactive about your situation. For tips on how to proceed, read the following article:
Conversion or Depletion of Marital Assets
An excerpt from Quickie Divorce, by Attorney Linda H. Connell
Dissipation of marital assets occurs when one spouse, either before or during the divorce proceedings, takes action to conceal or use up marital property. This can be accomplished by removing items from the home or, in some cases, from the spouse’s business so that the innocent spouse has no access to the property. Spending down bank accounts or selling marital or business property and hiding the proceeds are other methods by which marital property is drained.
Protecting Assets in a Divorce
The best way to protect marital property is to do so before there is a divorce situation. Removing items of personal property to a safe location before informing your spouse that you will be seeking a divorce is usually a better option than trying to recover them from his or her possession afterward.
Opening a separate bank account, if you do not already have one, is also a good idea. However, take care not to remove more than your fair share of the marital property, or you may end up as the one being accused of depletion of assets. (Check out the following article for more information: Divorce & Bank Accounts.)
Getting a Protective Order for Property
In the event you have not already taken steps to protect your property, and you now find yourself in the position of having to safeguard your assets on an emergency basis, you may seek a protective order for the property.
This will be similar to obtaining a temporary restraining order in an abuse case, in that you may appear in court on an ex parte basis, and provide notice and an opportunity for a hearing after the order is granted. Doing so will avoid tipping off your spouse that you are seeking to protect the property.
Remedies for Dissipation of Marital Assets
If your spouse does hide, destroy, or spend the asset before you are able to secure a protective order, or in spite of an order you actually were able to obtain, the court can provide some sort of remedy after the fact. When it comes time to divide marital property in the divorce decree, the judge should take into account any assets that one party dissipated, and lessen that party’s share of the marital estate by the amount wasted.
Such a result can put you back in your original position monetarily; however, if the item that disappeared had sentimental value, such as a piece of heirloom jewelry from one of your relatives, the dollar value you receive in the property division may well be insufficient to make up for what you lost.
About the Author: Linda H. Connell graduated from Notre Dame Law School and has worked in both general practice in Chicago and as a municipal attorney for the City of Joliet. Preferring writing and legal research to litigation, she joined a legal study aide organization in the editorial department. Later on, she went into business for herself as a writer of books providing a simple English explanation of the law.
For more information on protecting assets in a divorce, as well as what to consider when negotiating your divorce settlement, keep reading: