Under Indiana law, a trial court starts dividing the marital estate with the presumption of an equal division. There are numerous reasons for the court to deviate and award the other spouse more if it is fair (equitable in legal parlance). A category that is often overlooked is “dissipation” of marital assets, which means the illicit or illegal acts of a party has reduced the amount of the estate available to divide.
This blog looks at three common types of dissipation of marital assets. The first is alcohol or drug addiction. With this, a party may reduce the total marital estate by virtue of an accident that is not covered, criminal act, or merely using marital money that is available for purchase of alcohol or drugs. This is a particular problem with the illegal purchase of prescriptions drugs at very inflated costs.
Second, is gambling. This is the legal form, where a person who has this addiction spends and spends on the hopes of the big win at a casino or horse park (within Indiana). There are numerous type of illegal gambling, such as through sports books and the internet which are also criminal acts. Thus, if established, as with spending exorbitant amounts on drugs, the court may make an unequal division to account for this waste or dissipation of a marital asset.
Third, but subtler and harder to prove, is spending assets or letting them deteriorate just to keep the other side from obtaining more in the court’s division. There is a fine line for what is normal or abnormal for any given marriage. And if a spouse spends all available assts (what is left after debts), there is little remedy a court can order. However, if identified through counsel, this may be stopped by a variety of mechanisms, from a restraining order to a receiver (in the case of a family owned business being mis-managed).
Skilled counsel can help identify and present this dissipation to the court in a divorce case. We hope this blog helps identify certain avenues that are available to obtain a more favorable division of the marital estate. This blog is not intended to provide legal advice or a solicitation for legal services. However, it is best thought of as an advertisement. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. handle complex property divorce cases throughout the State of Indiana.