Facts: After 31 years of marriage, Wife filed for divorce. Shortly after the divorce action was filed, Husband pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life without parole on each conviction. Husband remains incarcerated.
The surviving spouse of one of Husband’s victims obtained a $12 million judgment against Husband for wrongful death.
When dividing the marital assets, the trial court found that Husband dissipated $85,000 from the marital estate. $75,000 was due to the legal fees incurred in the defense of his criminal charges. $10,000 resulted from legal fees incurred by Wife because of the vexatious manner in which Husband conducted his defense of the divorce action.
On Appeal: The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.
Dissipation of assets requires a showing of intentional, purposeful, and wasteful conduct. The party alleging a dissipation of marital assets has the burden of persuasion and the initial burden of production. After the party alleging dissipation establishes a prima facie case that marital funds have been dissipated, the burden shifts to the party who spent the money to present evidence sufficient to show that the challenged expenditures were appropriate.
After reviewing the record, the Court concluded:
The evidence does not preponderate against the court’s determination that Husband dissipated $85,000.00 of marital funds. The $75,000.00 incurred in the defense of Husband’s criminal case was based on his illegal conduct that was intentional, purposeful and had produced no benefit to his family. With respect to the $10,000.00 the court determined that, given the facts of the divorce case, including Husband’s acknowledgment of the grounds for divorce, his incarceration, and the wrongful death judgment entered against him, the numerous motions he filed—which had to be defended by Wife—caused her to unnecessarily expend marital funds; this finding is supported by the record…. Husband has failed to introduce any proof that the $85,000.00 was an appropriate expenditure of marital funds.
Accordingly, the trial court’s judgment was affirmed.
Information provided by K.O. Herston: Knoxville, Tennessee Divorce, Matrimonial and Family Law Attorney.