When your man wanna get buck-wild
Just go back and hit ’em up style
Put your hands on his cash and spend it to the last dime
For all the hard times
-“Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops!)” by Blu Cantrel
In the early 2000s, the R&B artist Blu Cantrell topped the charts with this catchy tune that still makes me cringe every time I hear it.
It is the revenge song to end all revenge songs. The singer catches her man cheating, so she goes on a shopping spree, destroys his personal items, and then sells everything else “till there was just nothin’ left.” She then brags that she paid all the bills late, and implies that she took or sold his car and home.
If Ms. Cantrell and her cheating partner were married, she would be in hot water when it came time to formally file for divorce. In Pennsylvania, she could be accused of marital waste, or “pre-separation dissipation of the marital estate.”
In Pennsylvania, the general rule is that all the assets a couple owns will be divided equitably at divorce. This does not mean the assets will be divided equally, instead, it means they will be divided fairly.
When one partner has been intentionally, fraudulently, or recklessly spending money or destroying the couple’s property, his or her share of the marital estate must be reduced out of fairness.
In some cases, the court may even require the spiteful spouse to pay their partner for the assets that were sold, given away, lost, or destroyed as if he or she had stolen them.
What counts as waste?
Figuring out what counts as pre-separation dissipation of the marital estate or marital waste can be tricky.
Making poor financial choices throughout the marriage is not waste. Making risky loans to family members or forcing your partner to shut down a profitable business in the months leading up to a divorce may be.
Going on a shopping spree may be marital waste, but not if the money is spent on the couple’s children or home. The spending spouse must be the sole beneficiary. Unless… the spending spouse is spending money on his or her new paramour.
Blu Cantrell doesn’t say how she caught her man cheating, but perhaps she looked at his credit card statements and realized he was paying for a second apartment or had bought some jewelry for his side-chick. If that’s the case, he too was wasting marital assets.
Making a claim
If you think your partner is being wasteful, and you want to make a claim of pre-separation dissipation, you need to start building a case. Gather evidence of the spending you disagree with, and make it clear that you disagree.
You have a legal right to access information about financial accounts held jointly, and it is time to use that power. Gather bank statements, receipts, and loan documents that prove your spouse is spending money inappropriately.
One way to demonstrate your disagreement with their spending is to open a separate bank account to deposit your own money in. It shows the court that you were worried the money would otherwise be wasted, and it is something you are going to have to do anyway.
Finally, if you haven’t already done so, get in touch with an experienced divorce attorney. What is an overwhelming and confusing experience for you, is something family law attorneys deal with every day.
At the Law Office of Gary R. Swavely, Jr., we help guide our clients through even the most difficult financial circumstances. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.