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Dissipation and Chicago Divorce

Dissipation and Chicago Divorce

By: M. Scott Gordon

What is dissipation and what do you need to know about dissipation if you are filing for divorce in Chicago? Concerns about dissipation most often arise in the context of the distribution of marital property. In recent years, Illinois law has changed to narrow dissipation, and it is important to understand how this becomes an issue in Chicago divorces. In the Illinois Appellate Court Case of In re Marriage of Carter, dissipation is defined as “the use of marital property for one spouse’s benefit or for a purpose unrelated to the marriage at a time when the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown.” In other words, dissipation refers to a situation in which one spouse uses marital assets for reasons that are not related to the marriage when the spouses either are considering divorce or are in the process of getting divorced.

What should you know about current Illinois law and dissipation?

Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act on Dissipation

What does the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act have to say about dissipation? Under 750 ILCS 5/503, the court should take into account dissipation when it makes a decision about how to distribute marital property. In order to take dissipation into account, the court needs to have the following:

  • Notice of intent to claim dissipation no later than 60 days after the trial begins or 30 days after discovery closes (whichever is later);
  • Information (contained within the notice of intent to claim dissipation) about date or time period in which the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage occurred, the property dissipated, and date or time period in which the dissipation occurred; and
  • Certificate or service of notice of intent to claim dissipation filed and served properly.

In addition, there are limits for the dissipation—these concern some amendments made to Illinois law in 2013 and 2016:

  • Dissipation must have occurred prior to three years after the party claiming dissipation knew or should have known about the dissipation; and
  • Dissipation cannot have occurred prior to five years before the filing of the petition for the dissolution of marriage.

Why Does Dissipation Matter?

You might be asking yourself: why does dissipation matter? Let us give you an example. For instance, imagine that Spouse A and Spouse B have been married for 10 years, and the spouses have been sharing a bank account in which they both deposit paychecks every month, which they have been doing since the beginning of the marriage. For all intents and purposes, the bank account is marital property. Spouse A decides to file for divorce, and Spouse B gets angry about the impending and decides to take a trip to London to clear his head. While in London, he uses his debit card—linked to the joint bank account—and spends down all of the money in the account in order to have a good time on his trip. He ends up spending $15,000 total, and feels justified since he is angry at Spouse A for filing for divorce.

When the court decides how to distribute property, Spouse A argues dissipation, and says that Spouse B unfairly spent marital assets when he knew that the marriage was irretrievably broken. The court can take into account Spouse B’s dissipation in the equitable distribution of marital property.

Contact a Chicago Divorce Lawyer

If you have questions about dissipation or property distribution more generally, a Chicago divorce attorney can help. Contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates for more information.