Virginia law requires that marital property be distributed equitably. In the event that one spouse wants to find a way around this law, he or she may willfully spend money so that it cannot be split evenly with the other spouse. This act is known as dissipation of marital assets.
Family law disputes can be contentious, and dissipating assets is a tactic sometimes employed by spouses. Negotiations over the distribution of marital property becomes essentially moot when one of the spouses involved has drained bank accounts and disposed of assets, and this kind of behavior can be especially harmful to spouses who lack other resources and cannot turn to family members or friends for support.
This kind of behavior may be easy to spot when spouses make uncharacteristically large withdrawals or charitable donations, but experts like forensic accountants may be required to untangle complex financial or business records. Family law judges in Virginia are familiar with the types of financial decisions that divorcing spouses make, but solid evidence of asset dissipation could factor heavily when they decide how any remaining marital property should be divided.
Spouses often begin to hide or dispose of assets prior to initiating divorce proceedings, and experienced family law attorneys may scrutinize the financial records of new clients to determine whether or not it is a case of dissipation. Attorneys could also seek to prevent negotiations from derailing by suggesting a more cooperative approach such as divorce mediation. When efforts to reach an amicable middle ground are unsuccessful and marital assets have been squandered, attorneys may urge family law judges to take this into consideration and order higher levels of spousal support.