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Divorce Tip: Avoid the Revenge Shopping Spree
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Divorce Tip: Avoid the Revenge Shopping Spree

On Behalf of | Jul 10, 2017 | Divorce

San Marcos, CA – The struggle of a divorce is no doubt a time of headaches and difficulty, and there may be a fair amount of resentment present, as well. You’ve heard of retail therapy and all the relief a good shopping spree can bring.

In fact, your reason, wouldn’t the spending you do now lessen the amount your soon-to-be-ex gets after the divorce?

“You need to be careful with your spending habits during a divorce,” warns Attorney John Griffith. “What you might see as a bit of warranted revenge can ultimately end up hurting you in court.”

Dissipation of Marital Assets

Dissipation is a term used for a time when you or your spouse “conceals, conveys or wastes marital assets during the dissolution proceeding or in anticipation of divorce.” In laymen’s terms, that means spending or hiding money during the divorce process.

“And yes, dissipation can include a shopping spree,” explains Griffith, “so be aware that unnecessary spending during your divorce can cost you in the long run.”

Dissipation can include any of the following:

  • Spending money on an extramarital affair
  • Hiding jointly owned property or funds
  • Using credit cards or joint assets to make frivolous purchases
  • Spending money on alcohol, drug, or gambling addictions

Dissipation is not spending used for normal personal living expenses, as well as day-to-day spending on hobbies that both parties enjoyed or approved of during the marriage.

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“Understanding types of property as defined by California law is essential in cases like these,” says Griffin. “With so much gray area under the term dissipation, knowing what kind of property you have is important.”

Types of Property in California Law

During a divorce or separation, there are three types of property defined in California law. If you signed a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, your case might be different, and you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney to determine what exactly you’ll get once the divorce is finalized.

Defining Property

Property is basically anything with a monetary value, including but not limited to:

  • Automobiles
  • Houses
  • Furniture
  • Clothing
  • Bank accounts and cash
  • Pension and life insurance plans
  • Stocks and bonds
  • Patents
  • Businesses

Any property, money, or other asset you got during your marriage, under California law, belongs to both you and your spouse. Even if you saved for and bought a car with your own money, it’s still considered community property if you purchased it during your marriage.

Community Property

This is basically anything that you and your spouse acquired while married or in a domestic partnership. This includes any money earned during the marriage and any items bought with that income. Debts are also communally accrued, no matter which spouse actually racked up the bills. However, gifts and inheritances are excluded under this definition.

Quasi-Community Property

If you lived outside of California at any time during your marriage, all income, property, and assets earned during your time out-of-state would qualify as quasi-community property. If you get divorced in California, all quasi-community property would be treated as Community Property, meaning everything would be shared with you and your spouse.

Separate Property

This includes everything you had before you got married or entered into a domestic partnership. It also encompasses gifts and inheritances to or from one spouse. Debts after the date of separation would also fall under the category of separate property.


Oftentimes, pensions and houses can be in the categories of both separate and community property, depending on when they were earned or acquired. For example, one spouse may have been contributing to a retirement account before meeting the other partner. That would qualify as separate property but would be changed to community property for any contributions made after the marriage. It would, in the case of a divorce, return back to separate property. Comingling is the legal term that best describes these complex situations.

So What’s the Big Deal if I Shop with My Own Money?

Again, it’s all a matter of definition. If you earned the money before the marriage, it’s separate property, as long as you can prove when the money was earned. If you signed a prenuptial agreement, this would be another situation where you might be able to get away with excessive shopping.

However, be sure you’re not spending community property when you’re hitting up the mall. During the divorce proceedings, courts tend to look unfavorably upon those who have squandered joint earnings and can decide to award the other spouse more money.

To talk about your divorce case or to learn more about your property, schedule a free consultation with the experienced team at Griffith, Young and Lass today. These exceptional family law attorneys can help you with your unique case.

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