It is extremely frustrating to deal with a financially irresponsible spouse. Reckless disregard for finances and property may reach heightened proportions when the marriage begins to unravel. If your spouse has been recklessly spending your money and misusing assets, is there anything you can do? The answer is yes, and this behavior is called marital waste.
What is marital waste?
When Floridians divorce, the courts will begin with a presumption that your assets should be equally divided. However, this assumption is discarded when your spouse has intentionally dissipated, wasted, depleted, or destroyed your marital assets. The time span examined is the two years prior to filing your petition for divorce with the court, or after the petition is filed.
What kind of activities are considered waste?
Other divorce cases that have been litigated in Florida have defined waste as activities of a spouse who is using funds for personal reasons that have no connection to the marriage when the relationship is breaking down beyond repair. This may involve acts such as deserting a spouse and taking the family savings along with him or her, or having an affair and spending a large amount of the couple’s funds on another person outside of the marriage. If you and your spouse have simply lived outside of your economic means, that is probably unlikely to be characterized as waste. However, there is no list of behaviors that would or would not qualify, as each situation is different. The circumstances which constitute marital waste vary, and only your attorney can properly assess the situation and whether you have a good chance of winning in court.
How is proof of waste used during divorce proceedings?
If you can prove your spouse committed waste, then that is used by the court in dividing the marital assets unequally. In other words, you would get a greater share of the marital estate than your spouse, as a result of their misconduct. This may change an award of alimony or the amount or time in which you are paid. It would also impact the share of property received.