Can a Wife's Financial Misconduct Be Considered in a Divorce?

By Heather Frances J.D.

Your divorce court will issue a divorce decree that details the terms of your divorce, including how property is to be divided between you and your spouse. Depending on your state’s laws, the court may be able to consider your spouse’s misuse of money, among other factors, when it divides your marital property.

Dissipation of Assets

In a divorce situation, a spouse’s misuse of money is usually called “dissipation of assets.” Though the exact definition varies between states, dissipation is generally characterized by wasteful or foolish spending in a manner that did not benefit the family. Typically, courts recognize that more marital assets would be available for distribution if one spouse had not wasted those assets during the marriage. Additionally, if a spouse intentionally spends money so that there will be less available for division in the divorce, the court may decide that such spending was a dissipation of assets.


Sloppiness with money is not enough for you to successfully claim that your spouse has dissipated marital assets, since dissipation usually requires significant monetary waste. Also, money spent to benefit the family usually is not considered wasteful. For example, a court is unlikely to find dissipation if your spouse ran up $10,000 in credit card debt by purchasing groceries or clothes for the kids. However, if the money was spent on an extramarital affair or lost through a gambling addiction, the court is much more likely to say that the money was squandered.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Burden of Proof

If you claim your spouse dissipated marital assets, you typically have the burden of proving to the court that wrongful dissipation occurred. Your evidence could include receipts or testimony indicating the amount of dissipation and where the money went. Even if you can prove the money was spent, your spouse may have defenses, including that you consented to the expenditures, that the expenditures were made for family purposes or that her spending was simply bad luck or bad judgment.

Repairing the Damage

Your state’s laws determine how your divorce court can repair the damage caused by your spouse’s dissipation of marital assets. Generally, courts may reduce the amount of money or property awarded to the wasteful spouse in a divorce as a way to compensate the innocent spouse for the wasted funds. However, courts don’t have to provide a dollar-for-dollar adjustment and may have authority to customize an equitable award based on the facts of the case. For example, if your spouse still has the money she took from the family checking account, the court can order her to return it so that it can be divided.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Adultery Laws and Alimony


Related articles

Financial Gifts in a Divorce

In many cases, if you personally receive money as a gift, it will not be affected by a divorce. Generally, gifts made to one spouse are considered "separate property," meaning it belongs solely to the spouse who received it, even if received during the marriage. However, courts may consider the financial resources of each spouse, including separate property, when determining the terms of the divorce. While divorce laws and property division vary by state, courts may have discretion to divide separate property in a divorce depending on the circumstances.

Am I Entitled to My Wife's Hidden Bank Accounts in the Divorce?

Dividing property in a divorce comes down to determining what's yours, what belongs to your spouse, and what belongs to both of you. Your entitlement to certain assets can be a lot more complicated than that, however, because the boundaries can overlap and the lines between each category of property often blur.

The Penalty for Hiding Assets During a Divorce

During a bitter divorce, one or both parties might try to hide marital assets to benefit financially from the breakup and punish their spouse. If you are thinking about hiding assets, take a moment to reflect on what you're considering. Hiding assets is a reckless action. If you get caught -- and the odds are you will -- penalties can run the gamut, from a property settlement that allocates a much greater amount of the marital assets to your soon-to-be ex-spouse, contempt of court or criminal charges for fraud or perjury.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

How to Divide Up the Assets for a Divorce in Illinois

In Illinois, you have the right to reach a property settlement agreement with your spouse: the two of you can mutually ...

Florida Divorce Laws on Infidelity

No-fault divorce states, such as Florida, grant divorces on the premise that sometimes marriages just don’t work out. ...

Can a Wife Take Assets in a Divorce That Were Owned by the Husband Prior to the Marriage in Ohio?

Ohio courts can divide all types of property in your divorce -- real estate, household furnishings, vehicles and bank ...

Proving Money Is Inherited

Each state has its own laws regarding the division of marital property in a divorce. Community property states, which ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED