Post-Separation or Divorce Spending Spree and the Effects on the Divorce


Everyone reacts differently when faced with the end of their marriage and divorce proceedings. Some people get angry and want to fight, while others get very emotional and may withdraw from the process entirely. Others might try to get back at their spouse or act out by spending exorbitant amounts of money. This is what we call the separation or divorce shopping spree. While spending a lot of money on nice purses, new clothing, new shoes, a sports car, video games, or whatever you want to buy that sounds fun, in the premise of a divorce, it could have some very negative consequences.

Wasting Marital Assets During Divorce

In Illinois, dissipation is when a spouse uses, conceals, or wastes marital assets during a divorce. Dissipation can include spending money on an extramarital affair, hiding jointly owned property or money, using credit cards or joint assets to make frivolous purchases, and spending money on alcohol, drugs, or gambling addiction. If money or property is found to have been dissipated, then the spouse who dissipated that money could owe their spouse a reimbursement of at least half of the total amount dissipated, or more.

Understanding Dissipation

Using the funds in a joint bank account, or using a credit card, joint or in that spouse’s individual name, to spend $5,000 at the Burberry store on Michigan Avenue during the divorce proceedings when you normally don’t shop at Burberry or spend that much at one time can be considered dissipation. Going to casinos weekly and losing $8,000 can also be considered dissipation. Going to the car dealership and purchasing a brand new car during the divorce proceedings when you have a perfectly good car at home is considered dissipation. All of these actions will lead to some reimbursement owed to your spouse in the divorce.

An Exception to Dissipation

One exception to dissipation is if you are using your separate or non-marital property to go on your sudden shopping spree. Non-marital property is property that was either acquired before the marriage or through a trust, gift, or inheritance. This property would be awarded to the individual spouse as their non-marital or separate property in the event of a divorce. So, suppose a spouse wants to use their non-marital property to go on a shopping spree. In that case, they are free to do so without impacting the marital estate or being required to potentially reimburse the other spouse from their share of the marital estate. Spending their non-marital funds on purchases is their choice, but likely not smart, especially if it is a means of revenge or expressing anger at your spouse due to the divorce. This will severely deplete your separate assets and leave less for you after the divorce.

What Motivates a Divorce Spending Spree?

In many cases, this sudden spending or wasting of marital assets is done due to anger or wanting to get revenge. However, in some cases, this excessive spending could be the sign of something deeper and more concerning, and not just your average retail therapy. Compulsive buying could be the cause of the shopping spree as a result of a spouse’s dysfunctional way of managing difficult feelings. This way of managing feelings is actually similar to people who abuse alcohol or drugs. The feelings triggered by separation from your spouse or the start of the divorce are likely causing stress and possibly anger, resulting in the spouse needing a way to deal with these feelings, which are then expressed in compulsive shopping and buying. If you think your spending could be more than just a one-off time period in your life, you might want to seek some assistance from your doctor or therapist to help you manage your feelings in a more constructive way.

Overall, the spending of marital assets in a sudden and frenzied shopping spree is never the right way to deal with a divorce or the anger you feel towards your spouse. It depletes the marital estate leaving less for you and your spouse at the end of the day, increases debts to pay, and will likely result in the spending spree spouse ending up with even less of the marital estate due to having to reimburse their spouse for half of the value of what they spent.

Seek Advice from an Experienced Divorce Attorney

If you have already gone on a shopping spree or feel the urge to do so, be sure to speak to an experienced divorce attorney about what you can do moving forward to lessen the financial blow or stop frivolous spending. You also might want to speak to a mental health professional if you feel you cannot control your behavior so they can help you deal with the management of your feeling as a result of the divorce.




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