Handling Your Joint Bank Account in a Divorce
When a couple decides to divorce, there’s a lot on the line. There are likely assets such as money, houses, cars, heirlooms and collectibles at stake. Both parties have a need to protect what is theirs. This means keeping money in a joint account safe.
If you have a joint bank account, what should you do? Do you leave the money in there? Do you take it all out so your spouse doesn’t leave you high and dry?
First, you need to understand what a joint bank account is. It’s a financial account owned by two or more people. The people listed as account owners have the right to deposit and withdraw money without permission from the others listed on the account. If a married couple is listed as the owners, then the money in the account is considered marital property and the spouses own the money equally.
However, if you are in the midst of a divorce, emptying the joint account is not in your best interest. If you have already filed for divorce and decide to take everything in the account, you could be charged with a crime. This could be considered contempt of court, since the court wants to distribute all assets equally. If you take thousands of dollars for yourself, with no intent to split it with your spouse, then you are essentially hiding assets or preventing them from being distributed per the law.
What Can You Do?
You want to protect your hard-earned money, so what are your options? First, you need to understand what you can’t do. You will not be able to take your spouse off the account. The bank will not be able to do that, since that would be cutting off your spouse from their legal assets.
Your best bet is to talk to your spouse about closing the account. By doing so, you can take the money and split it. You both can then open separate accounts.
If your spouse is not agreeable to this for some reason, then proceed by talking to a divorce lawyer. Understand what the laws are in your spouse. If you have not yet filed for divorce, then your best bet may be to withdraw half of the money in the account. That way, you are legally taking what is rightfully yours. However, do discuss this with a lawyer first to make sure this route is indeed legal.
Once all the money is out of the account, you should close the account for good. You can do it together or on your own. Just be aware of transactions that automatically occur, such as direct deposit and autopay and transfer these to your new account.
Contact a Maryland Family Law Attorney Today
When deciding to divorce, you need to handle all the aspects involved. This means dealing with assets such as joint bank accounts.
You need to act quickly so your spouse doesn’t take all your money and run. The Columbia divorce lawyers at the Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A. can help you understand what you need to do to protect yourself financially. Schedule a consultation to learn more. Call (410) 774-5987 or fill out the online form. We have two offices to serve you.