As one of our previous blog posts discussed, “dissipation” is an Illinois divorce law property distribution doctrine. A party commits dissipation of marital assets when he or she uses marital property for his or her sole benefit and for a non-marital purpose at a time when the marriage is undergoing an irretrievable breakdown. A common example is spending money on a paramour after the parties have separated. If an Illinois court finds that dissipation occurred, it may order the dissipating party to contribute money back to marital estate so the other party can receive a portion of those funds. The Illinois legislature recently amended the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act regarding dissipation. The changes will be effective on January 1, 2013 and they modify the right of a party to claim dissipation. The changes require a party to give a notice of intent to claim dissipation to the other party no later than 60 days before trial or 30 days after discovery closes, whichever occurs later. The notice of intent to claim dissipation shall contain, at least, a date or period of time during which the marriage began undergoing an irretrievable breakdown, an identification of the dissipated property, and a date or period of time in which the dissipation occurred. The notice of intent to claim dissipation shall be filed with the clerk of the court and served upon the other party. A party may not claim that dissipation occurred prior to 5 years before the filing of the petition for dissolution of marriage, or 3 years after the party claiming dissipation knew or should have known of the dissipation. It seems that these modifications encourage parties to not wait to claim dissipation until a case is nearly finished or for too long after the dissipation has occurred. The modifications also seem to impose a duty on parties to only claim dissipation when they have a concrete basis for doing so. It may be that courts used to be inundated with parties claiming that dissipation occurred, but they lacked any substantial facts to support the dissipation claim. It will be much harder for parties to make such unsubstantiated claims once the Illinois legislature’s new changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act take effect.
Dissipation is a complicated matter and you should contact an experienced family law attorney if you believe dissipation may be an issue in your case.