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How to avoid being a victim of dissipation of assets

As you're going through a divorce, you and your spouse likely still have accounts that belong to both of you. That means that either one of you can withdraw as much as you choose. If your estranged spouse is angry, vindictive, hurt or simply wants to walk away with as many of the marital assets as possible, they may empty out those accounts on frivolous, unnecessary purchases.

That's called "dissipation of assets." It often involves intentionally squandering money or other assets so that the other spouse doesn't get a fair chance to divide those assets in the divorce. A spouse may buy an expensive car or boat, take a pricey vacation, buy their new significant other expensive gifts or simply hide the funds somewhere they can't easily be found.

This unethical tactic isn't exclusive to one gender or the other. Unfortunately, however, women are often the victims. They may be stay-at-home moms or have lower-paying jobs than their husbands, so getting a fair share of the marital property is crucial to their post-divorce financial stability. When they're denied that, they can be in serious trouble.

The key to preventing dissipation of assets or stopping it before it goes too far is to keep a close eye on all of your accounts -- including retirement and investment accounts. Look for large withdrawals. Watch your credit card statements as well for large or unusual charges.

If you notice anything suspicious, notify your attorney immediately. Don't just respond in kind by emptying out the remainder of the accounts or charging up a storm on your credit cards. That will only make the situation worse and create potential legal problems for yourself. You may be able to take legal action to stop the dissipation and help ensure that you get a fair shot in the division of marital property.

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