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How marital waste affects divorce in Massachusetts

On Behalf of | May 16, 2023 | Divorce

Massachusetts divorce courts divide marital assets in a fair way considering all of the circumstances. Therefore, if one spouse is wasting marital assets, their divorce settlement will reflect that conduct.

The concept of marital waste

Marital waste is a term used in Massachusetts divorce law to describe the reckless, unnecessary, or intentional dissolution of marital assets by one spouse. A classic example of marital waste is using a salary to fund an affair. It can also occur when a spouse is planning to file for divorce and decides to overspend on luxury items or recreation activities before the commencement of the division of property process.

What is not marital waste

Hiding assets is not the same as wasting them. When the court discovers that one spouse hid assets, they will order them to disclose the concealed properties and include them in the distribution of marital assets.

Additionally, using marital money to maintain the same standard of living while the divorce is pending is not wasteful dissipation. However, if the accused spouse is aware that their financial situation has significantly changed but still continues to live beyond their means, the court will consider this as risky marital waste.

Analyzing marital waste

If one spouse accuses the other of wasting marital assets, Massachusetts divorce courts will closely analyze the circumstances to determine whether it’s a legitimate claim. They will typically consider:

  • Intent
  • Timing
  • The amount and type of asset affected
  • The spouse’s behavior before and after the dissipation

Dealing with marital waste during a divorce

Divorce courts take claims of marital waste seriously and will usually take punitive measures if they find that one party is responsible. This may include giving that spouse a smaller share of the marital assets, awarding the other spouse more alimony or punishing them financially by way of attorney’s fees or court costs. In extreme cases where a spouse deliberately dissipated large amounts of assets, criminal charges may ensue.

Marriage is a legally binding union that requires respect and financial responsibility even in hard times. Even if a couple chooses to end their marriage, they must still be mindful of proper asset management and hold each other accountable for any irresponsible behavior that wastes what they should share.