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What Constitutes Dissipation?

Dissipation is defined as the use of marital property for one spouse’s sole benefit for a purpose unrelated to the marriage at a time when the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown. In re Marriage of Seversen, 228 Ill.App.3d 820, 824. Whether a spouse has dissipated marital assets depends on the facts of each case. In Re Marriage of Hubbs, 363 Ill.App.3d 700. Once a prima facie case of dissipation is made, the party charged with dissipation must establish by clear and convincing evidence how the funds were spent; general and vague statements are not enough. In re Marriage of Murphy, 259 Ill.App.3d 336, 339.

Withdrawals from Joint Accounts

It is not uncommon for one spouse to take money out of joint marital accounts and deposit it into a personal account. When this occurs during the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, it may be enough to establish a prima facie case for dissipation, but is not dissipation per se. Establishing a prima facie case for dissipation shifts the burden to the spouse charged with dissipation. If the court finds that the spouse charged with dissipation has provided sufficient evidence to show that the transferred funds were used for necessary and proper expenditures, such as living expenses or paying off marital debts, the court will not find that the transfers of money from joint accounts constituted dissipation of marital assets. In re Marriage of Tietz, 238 Ill.App.3d 965.

Living Expenses

In many instances during a divorce, one spouse will leave the marital residence and find another place to live. As a result, one spouse will incur various expenses related to searching for, furnishing, and maintaining a new residence. The court has held that rent is a legitimate living expense. In Re Marriage of Hagshenas, 234 Ill.App.3d 178.While these expenses are not conclusively considered to be dissipation, if such expenses are excessive the court may find that they constitute dissipation. It is possible that the use of marital funds for living expenses during an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage could be shown to be so selfish and excessive as to be an improper waste of marital funds. Id.

Vacations with Someone Other than the Spouse

Illinois courts have consistently held that marital funds used by one spouse to go on vacations with a paramour constitute dissipation. In re Marriage of Osborn, 206 Ill.App.3d 588. In Re the Marriage of Manker, 375 Ill.App.3d 465.

Spending Money Consistent with a Pattern Established Throughout the Marriage

The court will not concern itself with the spending patterns of a spouse during the marriage in order to determine if marital funds were dissipated. The issue is not whether the spending is consistent with that engaged in prior to the breakdown but, rather, whether such spending was for the sole benefit of one of the spouses for a purpose unrelated to the marriage at a time when the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown. In Re Marriage of Hagshenas, 234 Ill.App.3d 178.