What if One Spouse Empties a Bank Account Before a Divorce?
Property division is one of the most important stages of the divorce process. The goal is to divide the assets equitably between the two spouses, which may not always work out to a 50-50 split. But when one spouse seizes assets for themselves, the situation gets complicated.
Bank Accounts and Divorces
In a divorce, bank accounts may be considered either separate or marital property. The distinction is important because it determines who can legally access the bank account’s funds.
Marital Bank Accounts
Marital bank accounts are those that are opened during the marriage. In most cases, the money deposited in them during the marriage belongs to both spouses. When the division of property occurs, the money in these accounts is divided fairly among the spouses.
Separate Bank Accounts
Sometimes, one or both spouses bring a bank account into the marriage. Generally speaking, these accounts aren’t marital property and thus belong solely to each respective spouse.
However, separate bank accounts may be designated marital property in certain situations. For example, if a spouse uses a pre-marriage savings account to deposit wages earned during the marriage, those wages will be subject to division.
When One Spouse Empties Bank Accounts
There are no real repercussions when a spouse empties a bank account of proceeds that are solely theirs — the money belongs to them by right and therefore isn’t subject to division in the divorce proceedings.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for spouses to empty marital bank accounts leading up to or during a divorce.
The key term here is “leading up to.” Emptying an account years before a divorce is not a punishable offense, but doing so within a reasonable timeframe of a divorce can lead to consequences for the spouse making the withdrawal.
The Court Will Know
During a divorce, both parties must paint a complete picture of their assets, including their bank accounts. The court will review bank statements and note all deposits and withdrawals to get an accurate accounting of dubious financial activity.
There Will Be Financial Consequences
The spouse who withdrew the money will likely face penalties, fines, and court costs when discovered, especially if the withdrawal was made to harm the other spouse or in direct disobedience of the court.
Protecting Your Accounts
If you’re contemplating or going through a divorce, there are ways to protect your money from a spouse’s withdrawals. You’ll first want to become financially independent from your spouse and establish your financial accounts in your name alone.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to remove your name from any account associated with your spouse. Otherwise, they may go on a spending spree and could quickly rack up marital credit card debt, putting you on the hook for half of the bill.
Effective Representation in Your Divorce
Gucciardo Family Law is ready to help you deal with the problems that can arise during a divorce, including drained bank accounts. Call our office today to speak with a compassionate divorce lawyer who knows how to fight for your rights.
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