In California, divorce summons contain an automatic temporary restraining order. This is intended to prevent either spouse from taking a number of actions including concealing or frivolously and excessively spending assets. The name for this is dissipation of assets, and it can be a way for one spouse to ensure that the other does not get much or any of the marital property in the divorce.
However, prior to the issuance of the order, one spouse may have already begun spending the assets. If one spouse has a high income and the other does not work outside the home, the latter spouse might be relying on receiving shared marital assets for support and financial security while they prepare to enter the workforce. Nonworking spouses may need to undergo training and may have a much lower earning potential than they would have if they had not stayed home and cared for children. While the working partner may be able to easily earn back the money spent, the other spouse might be left in a financially difficult position.
Although proving dissipation of assets can be difficult, it may be possible by reviewing financial records. Forensic accountants in particular are trained to dig deep and find evidence of hidden or depleted assets.
It is not uncommon for the standard of living for both spouses to drop after their marriage ends, and while divorce may be emotionally difficult, people should not hesitate to take steps to protect themselves financially. Cooperating with a spouse during a collaborative divorce can help the proceedings move along more quickly at less expense, but people should not sacrifice their financial well-being for the sake of expediency. Attorneys might be able to help clients prioritize their needs and develop a strategy for protecting themselves financially.