YOUR SPOUSE EMPTIES THE BANK ACCOUNT, YOU MAY NOT GET IT BACK
Sept. 9, 2009
Near the time the couple separated, Barbara took some $39,000.00 of marital (joint) money without Richard’s permission or even knowledge. The trial court awarded Richard credit for one-half (½) of the money Barbara took. The Court of Appeals in IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF BARBARA BUDELIER AND RICHARD BUDELIER reversed the trial judge and ruled Richard was not entitled to any of the money Barbara took. In doing so, the Court of Appeals found:
Eighteen months lapsed between the time of the separation when Barbara took the additional marital cash and the time of trial. The money was no longer an asset to be distributed, as the court found that the money Barbara used was for “legitimate living expenses.” There was no allegation in the record that Barbara had dissipated, hid, depleted or diverted this cash, other than to use for her own living expenses during the pendency of the dissolution. The court did find Richard had diverted 2007 farm income, attempting to hide this marital asset from Barbara; the income was imputed back to Richard and considered in the distribution of assets. In addition to using the money for living expenses, the record indicated Barbara used the money for repair and improvement to the rental properties, thereby increasing the value of those assets, which were then valued as of the date of trial and subject to division. As there is no proof of any inappropriate dissipation of the cash, the court should not have considered this spent marital asset to reduce the equalization payment.
It is important to remember that each divorce case is unique and slightly different facts, or even the same facts presented a different way could change the outcome of a different case. Also, it is worth noting that the Court of Appeals made a point of Richard trying to hide assets from Barbara. While not explicit in the ruling, one has to wonder if Richard was being punished for “not playing by the rules”.