If you are considering a divorce, it is crucial to protect your financial well-being and secure your future. One of the key issues that must be resolved is the division of martial property, which includes joint checking and savings accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, investments and other property. Money maintained in a joint checking or savings account is often the most readily available cash asset in a divorce. Therefore, it’s tempting to withdraw the funds to protect yourself and your children in the event your spouse stops paying bills or starts spending lavishly on him or herself. It may be an especially urgent matter for a stay-at home parent who does not have his or her own income to pay daily living expenses.
While it is in the best interests of both spouses to cooperate when dividing bank accounts to avoid hostilities and unnecessary legal fees, marital breakups are not always amicable. Therefore, it might be wise to withdraw marital funds before your spouse does.
Any joint account holder has authority to remove all or some of the funds maintained in a joint checking or savings account. Nevertheless, the funds belong to the marital estate. Your spouse may ask the divorce court to characterize your withdrawal as dissipation of the marital estate or as an advance against your share of the marital estate. If the court agrees, you will likely receive a disproportionately smaller share of the marital estate at the end of your divorce. In any event, withdrawing funds from a joint checking account can spark more litigation. It’s best to speak to an experienced divorce lawyer to advise you on your unique situation.
If you choose to withdraw funds, the funds should be used for living expenses and expenses typical and customary for you before the divorce was filed. Keep careful records of how the funds were used. Any records or other financial information demonstrating how you used the marital funds should be stored where your spouse cannot gain access to them.
Going through a divorce is never easy, but it is crucial to protect your finances so that you can move on with your life once the divorce is finalized. If you have questions about how to handle joint bank accounts in a divorce or any related matter, you are well advised to speak with an experienced divorce attorney.
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