Property division is often a central issue of dispute in divorce. When two people have labored together for years or even decades to build wealth and a secure financial future, there can be a lot of property to divide during the divorce. Minnesota is what is called an “equitable distribution” state. This means that marital property is divided equitably, which does not always mean equally. Minnesota statute 518.58 provides the different factors that a court shall consider when dividing marital property during a divorce. However, the court can only divide the property that the couple actually owns. Unfortunately, there may be some spiteful spouses who try to waste, or dissipate, marital assets in an effort to make sure that the other spouse receives as little as possible in the divorce. If you believe this is happening in your case, there are some important steps you need to take.
The first step is to actually file your divorce. When a divorce petition is filed, an automatic restraining order comes into effect. This order prevents either party from wasting assets, selling them, destroying them, or otherwise dissipating any assets. Once the order is in place, you will have the ability to seek the court’s assistance to immediately enforce the order if you discover your spouse is taking steps in contravention of that order. For example, if you discover your spouse is in the process of selling his boat to a friend for $1, you can seek the court’s assistance in stopping the sale and taking other preventative and punitive measures.
If you have already filed the divorce and you believe your spouse is still attempting to dissipate marital assets, you can and should file a motion with the court. This motion can request a variety of relief, ranging from court oversight over certain accounts to placing assets in escrow for the duration of the divorce. In order to obtain relief during this motion, you will need to demonstrate that your spouse’s expenditures are unusual and unnecessary. If, for example, your spouse is spending large sums on vacations or jewelry when that is not how money was spent during the marriage, that could constitute the dissipation of assets. If the dissipation has already occurred, the court can adjust the distribution of marital assets to provide that the spouse who did not dissipate marital assets will receive a larger portion of the remaining marital assets.