Court Finds that Husband Dissipated Marital Assets in Divorce Action

A Connecticut Appellate Court decision rendered subsequent to the Connecticut Supreme Court’s ruling in Gershman v. Gershman, 286 Conn. 341 (2007), further demonstrates the circumstances under which courts may conclude that a spouse has engaged in the dissipation of martial assets.  In Shaulson v. Shaulson, 125 Conn. App. 734 (2010), the parties were divorced in 2008 following a trial on financial issues.  In its decision, the trial court found that the husband had dissipated large sums of the parties’ savings in violation of the automatic court orders, and, consequently, charged that spending to the husband’s share of the marital estate. Shaulson at 736.  With respect to financial support, the court ordered the husband to pay $40,000 per month in unallocated alimony and child support, as well as 25% percent of his gross income over $1 million. The court also awarded the wife the marital home and two adjacent lots owned by the parties.

The husband appealed, claiming that the trial court improperly concluded that he had dissipated marital assets in violation of the automatic orders by spending $150,000 to furnish his new home, and that the court improperly charged the alleged dissipation against his share of the marital assets.  The husband essentially claimed that expenditures made to furnish a new home, particularly a home in which the parties’ minor children spend a significant amount of time, cannot amount to the dissipation of assets as a matter of law.

The Connecticut Appellate Court declined to adopt the husband’s position.  In its decision, the Court explained that while under the Gershman holding, dissipation in the marital dissolution context requires financial misconduct involving marital assets, such as intentional waste or a selfish financial impropriety coupled with a purpose unrelated to the marriage, an analysis must be made on a case by case basis. Shaulson, at 740.

Concluding that the husband had in fact dissipated marital assets, the Court explained that it was appropriate for the trial court to consider the husband’s spending on furniture for his new home in conjunction with his other spending during the pendency of the action, which the court calculated to be somewhere between $250,000 and $485,000 for trips, gifts to his fiancé and other furnishings.  The Appellate Court also took into consideration the fact that the trial court found that the husband’s expenditures were inconsistent with his historical spending habits on furniture, that there was no justification for the $150,000 expenditures and that the expenditures were actually detrimental to the family.

By: Michael D. DeMeola, Esq.

Should you have any questions regarding the dissipation of marital property, or divorce matters in general, please feel free to contact Attorney Joseph Maya. He can be reached in the firm’s Westport office at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at JMaya@mayalaw.com.
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