When a court awards spousal maintenance or child support, the judge will look at the income and assets of each party. This is often a fairly routine matter, but in some cases--particularly divorces where a large number of assets are involved--spouses unfortunately attempt to hide what they have or transfer property to reduce their future maintenance or support payments.
While uncommon, it is important to understand how spouses attempt to avoid these obligations and what you can do to ensure assets are accurately counted before a court enters a judgment.
Dissipating Marital Assets in Illinois
One issue that pops up in cases where spouses are attempting to avoid judgments is the dissipation of assets. Dissipation is any use of marital property, such as joint checking accounts or credit cards, for personal benefit rather than for the benefit of the marriage. This might include a spouse purchasing a personal vehicle or renting an apartment on his or her own. Dissipation claims get more complicated if a spouse purchases something that may be used for both parties, such as furniture or a vehicle that the couple uses together. But if you can show that your spouse was spending money just for the purpose of keeping it out of a divorce case, you will have a strong case for dissipation.
Also making these claims difficult is the fact that the dissipation must have occurred while the marriage is in the course of an “irretrievable breakdown,” which is a term that does not have any objective meaning. Therefore, each claim for dissipation must be considered individually.
Likely because of this, Illinois courts also require that they receive notice of such a claim before it is filed, and the statute of limitations for bringing a dissipation claim is usually three years.
Hiding Assets in Illinois
Another way that spouses attempt to affect how much they pay in support is by hiding assets. This can occur if a spouse has kept accounts or investments that the other spouse was never aware of, but, more frequently, assets are hidden through fraudulent transfers. A fraudulent transfer is the transfer of any asset to a friend or other relative at a cost that is fair below market value. For example, selling a $20,000 car to a sibling for $2,000 is a classic example of a fraudulent transfer.
Illinois courts are particularly harsh on fraudulent transfers. Spouses who engage in this conduct can be charged with perjury, fraud, or contempt of court. Additionally, if a hidden asset is discovered, a court will usually award a larger portion of the marital estate to the spouse that did not engage in this conduct.
Contact an Experienced Illinois Family Law Attorney
While many couples are able to resolve their differences amicably, some divorces, unfortunately, can get extremely messy. If you believe your spouse is hiding assets or transferring them to others to pay less in spousal or child support, you will need an attorney on your side who can look through financial records and get you your fair share. Contact our office today discuss your case with a compassionate DuPage County family law attorney.