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Watch your spending before your divorce

The greater your assets, the greater the chances your divorce will end up being a drawn-out affair with a lot of high emotions and quarrels over the financial arrangements.

It's important, however, not to let those emotions drive you into any bad financial moves -- particularly any that can be deemed "marital waste."

What's marital waste?

Marital waste is the unfair dissipation of marital assets. It occurs when one spouse intentionally squanders a couple's money in a way that prevents a fair split of the assets during the divorce.

For example, imagine that a couple has $1 million in the bank. The husband feels that his wife shouldn't be given an equal share, for whatever reason. To prevent her from getting half of that million dollars, he takes a trip to Vegas and blows $500,000 on the poker tables. That leaves only $500,000 for the judge to split between the couple -- which is hardly fair to the wife, because she didn't benefit in any way from all that lost money.

Similarly, imagine that a wife is angry about her impending divorce. She decides to run up thousands of dollars in joint credit card bills on new clothes and other personal items -- with the idea of sticking her husband with half the debt. Again, that's unfair to her spouse because he neither agreed to the debt nor benefited from the purchases.

A common scenario is where one spouse is involved with someone else toward the end of the marriage and spends lavishly on trips and gifts related to his or her new significant other.

What isn't marital waste?

You can't claim marital waste over long-standing bad habits. Generally speaking, the judge wants to see evidence that the extravagant spending started close to the end of the marriage. If your spouse is just a big spender, for example, you can't claim that he or she purposefully spent your shared money in order to deprive you of your share.

In addition, the expenses generally can't benefit both members of the couple if they're to be considered "waste." Paying off a joint credit card, for example, would benefit you both, while paying off your own card might be considered waste.

The lesson here is to be prudent with your money when a divorce is imminent. We have more helpful information here on our website.

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