Can my spouse withdraw money from a joint bank account?

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Is it legal to withdraw money from a joint bank account during the divorce?

When you open a joint bank account, the contract between each spouse whose name is on the account and the bank allows them to deposit or withdraw money at any time. However, if you are going through a divorce and you start withdrawing more money than the reasonable expenses then it can be used against you in the divorce court. Most family courts treat a joint bank account as marital property. The law even extends to individual bank accounts that are owned by each spouse. The only exceptions are inheritance or a prenup agreement where each individual’s bank account is their own. 


How would a family court split funds?

During the divorce proceedings, each spouse is required to submit a financial disclosure. The family court will consider the value of all marital property prior to the divorce including the joint bank account. The judge may decide to divide all the assets including the bank accounts either equally or equitably based on the circumstances. An unemployed wife who stayed at home to take care of children and the household may get more money (e.g. 65%) to support herself and her children than her husband (e.g. 35%).


What should I do if my spouse withdraws all the funds from a joint account?

If your spouse has withdrawn all the money from a joint bank account, you should immediately contact your attorney to file a motion in court. There is a possibility that you may have difficulty recouping the money if there are no other assets


What would a family court do if one of the spouses withdraws all the funds and hides the money?

While it may seem like a smart thing to do at the time, the family courts treat the withdrawal of all the funds as a hostile act. The judge may decide to use the following remedies: 


  • They may order the spouse to put all the money back into the account.
  • If the spouse claims that they no longer have the money, they may have to give the other spouse something that is of equal value.
  • They can be ordered to pay all legal fees and fines. 
  • Give more assets to the other spouse to make up for the money. For example, instead of a 50-50 split, the spouse who withdraws the money may receive only 25%.
  • They may put restraining orders against the withdrawal of any joint funds except to pay the mortgage or other joint debts.


I have withdrawn some money to move into an apartment and support my children. What should I do?

If you have withdrawn less than half the money, it won't be much of a concern. You should keep receipts and records of all the expenses to defend your withdrawal in court. It would also be a good idea to notify your lawyer. If needed, your lawyer will inform the court and your ex-spouse's attorney of the withdrawal.


Can my spouse withdraw the money from my individual account?

No, banks will not allow your spouse to withdraw the money from your individual account. However, the money in your individual account will also be split between you and your spouse unless it is an inheritance or you have a prenup in place.


My spouse has never worked. Can they still get half of the money in the bank account?

Yes. Since most states treat all assets including money acquired during the marriage as marital property, the money is subject to a split unless it is an inheritance or you have a prenup in place. Even then, the state may order you to pay your spouse alimony to maintain the same lifestyle.


Both my spouse and I work, but my spouse spends all their money and I am a super saver. Can they still get half of the money in the bank account?

Yes. The family court is going to split the money equally regardless of your spouse's spending habits. The only exceptions are inheritance and the money covered by a prenup.  




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Warning:  This post is neither financial, health, legal, or personal advice nor a substitute for the advice offered by a professional. These are serious matters, and the help of a professional is recommended as it can impact your future.

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