W. Tyler Moore, PC

What to do if assets disappear before property division begins

High-asset couples in Houston may not have had to worry about money very much while married. However, once they decide to divorce, the topic of money must be addressed. When the divorce is very acrimonious, not only does each side want to see that they get their fair share of the marital assets, but they may even be tempted to do things to keep their ex from receiving anything at all. This can lead to the dissipation of assets.

Greed and anger may fuel the desire for a spouse to take action to stop their ex from being awarded a portion of the marital estate; they may try to make sure that when the property division process starts, there is not much -- if anything -- left to divide. For example, they may go on shopping sprees, spending much of the marital assets. Or, they may gamble the marital assets away. In essence, they will squander or waste marital assets so that there is nothing left to divide, knowing that after the divorce, they'll be able to earn more money without suffering too much. This is known as the dissipation of assets.

However, the dissipation of assets is not only illegal, but it can carry serious consequences. For example, the victim spouse may not have the financial means to support themselves after the divorce if the marital assets have been dissipated. This could be especially disastrous if the victim remained out of the workforce while married.

It may be possible to protect spouses from the dissipation of assets by seeking an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order. An ATRO makes it so that once a spouse files for divorce, neither spouse can alter the financial status quo the couple enjoyed when married. However, for the most part, ATROs are optional, so if you think it is something you need, it should be sought as quickly as possible to keep the amount of time your ex has to squander assets to a minimum.

High-asset divorces present many issues, and one of them, unfortunately, is the dissipation of assets. Under certain circumstances, it may be necessary to seek legal help to stop the dissipation of assets. Securing the assistance of an attorney may be useful in such cases.

Source: Forbes, "What Is Dissipation Of Assets In Divorce And What, If Anything, Can You Do About It?," Jeff Landers, Nov. 1, 2016

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