Questions Regarding Financial Decisions Prior to Divorce
family law attorney, I receive calls and questions almost every day about the divorce process.
Recently, I have noticed that many of the questions have been about financial
decisions in the months leading up to a possible divorce.
People wonder what “rules” exist related to the financial situation
of married couples once the marriage has broken down and divorce appears
inevitable. One call was about a husband who took all of the family money
out of a joint checking account. Another question concerned a wife who
threatened to sell the car she drove but that is in the husband’s
name. This article will shed light on these pre-divorce financial issues
and will hopefully provide some guidance for individuals contemplating divorce.
Can Influence How Marital Property is Distributed in the Divorce
When the parties of a divorce cannot decide on how to divide their marital
assets and debts in Colorado, the judge will ultimately order an equitable
(fair) distribution of marital property and marital debt. After a couple
gets married, most assets accumulated during the course of their marriage
are considered marital property. As marital property, either spouse can
generally spend the family money or dispose of the family assets however
they want. Generally, a judge will distribute the couple’s marital
property without taking irresponsible pre-divorce financial decisions
into consideration. However, in certain situations, a judge will consider
economic fault when distributing marital property at a final divorce hearing.
The Importance of Retaining Legal Representation
Most cases involving economic fault are situations where a spouse will
dissipate a marital asset in contemplation of divorce. If, for example,
a husband decides to sell a marital car in the month before he plans on
filing for divorce, and then he gambles the money away in an effort to
ensure his wife won’t get any of it, a judge may consider that economic
fault. But, since there is no guarantee a judge will find an irresponsible
financial decision to be economic fault. The best advice for individuals
planning on getting divorced is to obtain an attorney and start the process.
Filing For a Divorce Limits Access to Marital Assets
Once the divorce process begins and the other party has been notified,
an automatic temporary injunction prohibits either spouse from making
withdrawals, transfers, or in any way disposing of marital money or assets
outside the normal course of life or business, without the consent of
the other party. That protection does not exist prior to filing for a
divorce. If an individual is concerned about the financial misconduct
of their spouse in anticipation of a divorce, they need to
consult with an attorney and file for divorce in order to gain the protection of the temporary
injunction against financial misconduct.