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This Manual will discuss the large and rapidly growing case law on how the court can prevent spouses from obtaining unjust rewards by concealing or conveying away marital property.
Dissipation of assets is an extremely broad term which is not subject to precise definition. In its traditional and most narrow sense, dissipation is any deliberate attempt by the owner of an asset to waste the value of that asset in order to obtain a more favorable property award in divorce proceedings. Most modern cases, however, expand this traditional definition in at least two ways. First, the term is commonly applied to concealment and conveyance of assets, as well as to wasting of value. Second, the term is often used to refer to acts which are only reckless or negligent, and not necessarily intentional. In its modern and most broad sense, therefore, dissipation is any wrongful conduct by the owning spouse which has the effect of removing property from the reach of the court in divorce proceedings.
Dissipation of assets is obviously an extremely dangerous and harmful practice, for the court cannot make a truly equitable division of property unless all of the parties' assets are properly before the court. Accordingly, there is widespread agreement that measures must be taken to prevent dissipation and to cure the harm it causes. The nature and extent of these measures, however, varies greatly from state to state.
The various remedies proposed by courts to address dissipation of assets fall into four main categories: injunctive relief, rescission of fraudulent conveyances, unequal division, and constructive classification. Constructive classification is probably the most common remedy, but there is substantial modern case law applying all four measures.
National Legal Research Group, Inc.
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