Marital waste can happen at any time during a marriage. However, it typically becomes a complex issue when assets are being organized and redistributed during the process of a separation or divorce. In essence, marital waste occurs when one spouse chooses to improperly spend or otherwise divest themselves shared property before the spouses are no longer married. The spouse who commits this infraction could be motivated by the impending split or could engage in committing marital waste once the divorce is finalized. The courts are responsible for determining whether this sort of behavior can be factored into the decision when redistributing assets.
How Marital Waste Happens
Marital waste is also known as “dissipation of assets”. This dissipation of assets begins after one of the spouses withdraws money from a shared account or recklessly uses shared funds once the marriage disintegrates. At first, the burden of proof is on the spouse who accuses the other of committing marital waste. They must have some sort of evidence that the waste is happening. The burden of proof is then on the accused spouse to show that they used the shared funds for legitimate reasons. Generally speaking, the courts in Virginia view that money used to cover the cost of living after a separation or divorce is one of those valid reasons; therefore, it cannot be construed as marital waste.
Consequences in Court
A settlement might not be sufficient for resolving a conflict due to marital waste. If a settlement is not enough, the martial waste case will enter the courts for adjudication. Accusations of marital waste will then be given even more weight when both the property owned and the debts incurred by the spouses are evaluated. According to the Virginia Code 20-107.3(E), marital waste either needs to have occurred because of the divorce, or after the divorce has been confirmed and the spouses have gone their separate ways. Forcing the discovery of marital waste involves other measures, such as subpoenas and review of other relevant documents, such as bank statements. In any case, how the discovery is accomplished must be comprehensively documented during a divorce.
Equitable distribution ensures that both spouses receive their fair share of the dispersed assets. If marital waste is indeed determined to have occurred, the aggrieved spouse is entitled to a reimbursement. However, the amount of the reimbursement is based on a value from before the divorce, and consequently, it is not based on how much the compensation could be worth on the date of the divorce becoming final. Any irresponsible spending that took place during the marriage does not count as marital waste unless it is determined to be marital waste during equitable distribution proceedings.
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