How to protect yourself financially from a spiteful spouse

There is a bitter irony in the fact that engagement month in December is swiftly followed by the season of divorce in January. This may also be the month when many divorcing breadwinners in Florida begin to waste marital assets to reduce the value of assets that should be divided with their spouse. From gambling to spending money on lovers, no act is too low for these people.

According to Forbes, this is known as the dissipation of assets. Wealthier partners may have the luxury of worrying less about losing money in the short-term since they can earn it back within a few months. For the homemaker, the financial situation is less certain. In some states, homemakers and lower-income earners can use an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order to prevent this. However, there is no guarantee when it will kick in and what a breadwinner may spend before then.

If the offense was already committed, the burden of proof is on the spouse making the claim. Proving that claim is notoriously difficult and may require the need of a forensic accountant. This professional will comb through all financial documents to look for spending that cannot be verified or which looks out of place or excessive.

Business Insider warns spouses not to rely on electronic copies of financial documents. If a spouse changes the password on a bank account or the shared family PC out of spite, the other spouse might lose access to those records. It is important to download and store these in the cloud, as well as print them. Try to get a hold of credit card statements, bank statements and tax returns. Without access to these financial documents, it might be almost impossible to prove dissipation of assets.

Sometimes when spouses fight for every last dollar, they do so to protect their own financial stability. Other times, the motivation is more sinister. It may stem from anger over an alleged affair, disagreement with divorcing or just pure hatred. Whatever the reason, the intended victims will need to act swiftly and carefully to protect themselves.

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Beverly L . Brennan A PARTNER AT MCLAUGHLIN & STERN, LLP - NAPLES, FLORIDA ATTORNEY & COUNSELOR AT LAW

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