What It Takes to Win (or Overcome) an Argument About Dissipation of Assets in a Maryland Divorce Case

Lawyers, of course, keep up with new rulings from the courts all the time to make certain they are up-to-date on the law in the areas where they practice. That’s important because, when you are working with the right Maryland divorce attorney, you have the benefit of a legal advocate who possesses a thorough, complete, and up-to-date knowledge of the law in this state.

Many court rulings, however, also have information that can be really useful for most anyone facing a particular circumstance, like going through a divorce. Take, as an example, this divorce case from Baltimore.

The wife filed for divorce in 2019 after 17 years of marriage. Each spouse accused the other of financial misconduct.

The trial judge gave the wife the use of the marital home for five years. The court also found that the husband improperly dissipated marital assets by $22,000 and, therefore, owed the wife a payment of $11,000. (“Dissipation” is when a spouse spends marital assets on things unrelated to the marriage that benefit only him/her.)

The husband appealed and he was successful in getting the award regarding the marital home overturned. Maryland’s family law statutes have a section that deals specifically with awards of the “use and possession of the family home.” The statute is very clear that any such award must “terminate no later than 3 years after the date” that the court grants the divorce. This award ran for five years and was, therefore, not allowable.

On the issue of dissipation, the wife was successful. When you seek to make a winning argument about dissipation, you need evidence of two key things: proof that the marital assets were spent on non-marital things and; proof that the expenditures were made intentionally to reduce the amount of marital property available by the time the court issued an equitable distribution ruling.

Sometimes, getting the proof you need may involve in-depth investigation and perhaps an accounting expert. Other times, it may merely require your in-court testimony. (A skillful attorney can help you determine which category your situation falls into.)

In this Baltimore couple’s case, the wife had proof that the checking and savings accounts in question contained marital funds. The evidence also showed that the husband received more than $2,520 when he closed out one account, but that the husband provided no testimony describing what he did with that money. The wife also had proof that the husband “slowly drained” the couple’s savings account (which was also marital property,) in 11 transfers totaling more than $20,000 across 11 months.

Based on all that evidence, the wife had a credible case when it came to the husband’s dissipation of assets, which meant that the award of $11,000 to her was a proper one.

How your draining a marital asset may not be dissipation

It’s important to recognize that, sometimes, if a spouse accused of dissipation has the right evidence about where the money went, they may be able to avoid paying their spouse a dissipation award. For example, say you had made the same 11 transfers across 11 months totaling more than $20,000 that this husband made, However, instead you gave the court evidence that the money from those withdrawals went to pay the monthly mortgage payment for the marital home in which your spouse still resided, that evidence would likely be enough to defeat any claim by your spouse that you dissipated those assets.

Whether or not you or your spouse has improperly dissipated marital assets, your contested divorce is probably going to lead you to have many questions. For the reliable answers and advice you need, plus the determined advocacy you deserve, look to the skilled Maryland family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC. We have many years of helping Maryland spouses of all types as they go through divorce, and we’re ready to get to work for you. To learn more about how we can assist you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

Contact Information