Property division is an important component during dissolution in Texas, and can determine a spouse’s financial future. However, a spouse may circumvent equitable distribution to their former spouse during a divorce by dissipating, squandering or wasting the couple’s assets.
There are many ways to dissipate assets such as gambling and lavishing gifts and money on a new romantic interest. Squandering these funds may be particularly damaging for a spouse who gave up work to care for the family as a stay at home parent and who does not have income of their own.
Dissipation of assets has warning signs. Joint credit card statements should be closely reviewed and each expenditure should be accounted for. Notably, some businesses do utilize an ordinary sounding parent company name to obscure what they do. For example, a strip club may utilize an innocent sounding name to appear on credit card statements.
Proving dissipation of assets may be costly, difficult and require expert and methodical review of records. To make a convincing case, a spouse should make a substantial monetary claim. Disputing minor expenditures will not constitute a significant legal claim. In addition to being wasteful, the spending also should also irresponsible and atypical. It is difficult for a spouse to dispute spending that was accepted or usual during the couple’s marriage.
An automatic temporary restraining order may play a role in blocking dissipation of assets. An ATRO is a court order that prohibits both spouses from changing their financial situation once the divorce action starts. It may be important to seek an ATRO as soon as possible because a spouse may squander considerable assets and can considerable financial havoc before this order is entered.
A spouse should seek legal advice near the end of a marriage to help assure that they can identify all marital assets and help preserve their right to a fair and just equitable property settlement. A lawyer can also help seek equitable resolution of other issues such as spousal support and child custody.