Potential clients frequently ask how to protect their assets when they file for divorce, particularly in the event their spouse takes control of their assets, liquidates a bank or investment account, sells a car, takes a second mortgage on the house, racks up a bunch of credit card debt, etc. Without an agreement or court order, all of those actions are improper because they "dissipate" or waste marital assets that must be included and divided as part of the marital estate. Luckily, several counties, including Hamilton County, have local rules that immediately protect parties against dissipation of assets prior to a preliminary hearing. These rules are similar to Indiana Trial Rule 65(E) regarding temporary restraining orders in domestic relations cases, except that they do not require an initial petition or court order. In fact, Hamilton County's local rule has a similar provision to Trial Rule 65(E)(1)(b) against removing children from the state as well. Hamilton County's local rule LR29-TR65-212 states:
In any Domestic Relations case filed in Hamilton County, the parties shall not, without hearing or security: a. Transfer, encumber, conceal, sell or otherwise dispose of any joint property of the parties or asset of the marriage except in the usual course of business or for the necessities of life, without the written consent of the parties or the permission of the Court; and/or b. Remove any child of the parties then residing in the State of Indiana from the State with the intent to deprive the Court of jurisdiction over such child without the prior written consent of all parties or the permission of the Court.
Therefore, under Hamilton County's local rule, spouses should not be spending assets or accruing unnecessary debt unless it is for standard living expenses like a mortgage, utilities, car payment, etc. That being said, there are situations where a party has dissipated assets or needs to dispose of an asset where negotiation or court intervention may be necessary. For example, your spouse may have liquidated an account in violation of the local rules, or you and your spouse may agree that selling the marital residence is in the parties' financial interest. In those cases, I would encourage individual spouses to seek the advice of a domestic relations attorney to assist in recovering the dissipated assets or negotiating an agreement to list the house for sale that will protect their client during the sale process. Situations involving dissipation and temporary restraining orders are often fact specific, and it is important to seek the advice of an experienced domestic relations attorney who can advise you on the best course of action.
Let us know what you think and tweet @HARDENJACKSON.
The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients throughout the Indianapolis area and the state of Indiana in all areas family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy and other areas of assisted reproductive technology law. For more information, please contact us at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.
Remember, these blog posts are not meant to be legal advice. You should consult a family law attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation.