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Can my spouse clean out our joint accounts in divorce?

On Behalf of | Jun 24, 2024 | Asset Division, Divorce/SAPCR

Many married couples open joint accounts so that they can freely share their funds and make purchases for their families. This is handy while you’re married, but it can cause problems if you’re getting divorced. Because both spouses have access, many people wonder whether their spouse can legally take all that money in a divorce. What should you know?

Can your spouse take your money?

Legally, both of you have the right to take money from a joint bank account. This means that, as long as you share your account, you can legally withdraw money to pay for your daily expenses, to support your children and address other costs.

However, just because it is legal does not mean there will not be consequences. When you divorce, courts try to split your assets in a fair way based on things like how much money each spouse has, what each contributed to the marriage and what each person will need in the future. If one spouse took all the money from a joint account, the court might consider this when dividing things up. The court might even order the spouse who took the money to give some back to make sure everything is divided fairly or pay a penalty.

How can you protect your finances when you have a joint account?

While sharing an account with your spouse can create challenges during divorce, it is possible to take steps to protect your money. Some precautions include:

  • Monitoring the account – Keep a close eye on the account activity. Regularly check the balances and statements to ensure there are no unexpected withdrawals or transactions.
  • Communicate openly – If possible, have an honest discussion with your spouse about how you both plan to handle the joint account during the divorce proceedings.
  • Establish an individual account – Consider opening your own bank account where you can manage your personal finances separately. This will also be useful as a place to deposit your income and other personal funds moving forward.
  • Document everything – Keep records of all transactions and communications regarding your joint bank account. This documentation can be crucial in legal proceedings, especially if there are disputes about your spouse’s withdrawals.
  • Seek legal advice – Consult with a family law attorney who can help you understand your rights. They may suggest additional protective measures such as court orders if necessary.
  • Restrict account access – If the situation escalates or if you cannot reach an agreement, you may consider requesting a court order to freeze the account or limit withdrawals during the divorce process.

While your spouse can technically take the money from your joint accounts, doing so can lead to bigger issues and might not benefit them in the end. Keeping clear records of the account and seeking experienced legal guidance can help you protect your finances in this difficult situation.