Can you close a joint account before divorce?

On Behalf of | May 25, 2021 | Divorce

Divorce will cause you to think twice about things you never would have considered before, such as how you can protect your assets from a person you once loved. Though asset protection will prove to be a lengthy and complex process, one of the most obvious places to start the process is with your bank account.

Your initial reaction may be to close the joint bank accounts you and your spouse hold together. However, according to The Ascent, A Motley Fool Service, your efforts may be futile, as banks cannot legally cut a person off from assets that rightfully belong to him or her. This is the case even if you have been a customer with the bank for years, or even decades. So, what can you do to protect your money? The Ascent explores your options.

Work with your spouse

In most cases, the courts will distribute funds in a joint account equitably, which typically means 50/50. Given this information, it makes the most sense for you and your spouse to agree to close your joint accounts together, split the funds equally and open your own separate accounts. Doing this can save you both considerable time and headache later on in the divorce process.

Freeze your accounts

If your spouse refuses to work with you, and if you anticipate that he or she will attempt to withdraw all the funds from an account, contact your bank and ask the representative to place a freeze on it. Explain that you are going through a divorce and that you want to freeze the account so that neither party can drain it.

Trust the courts to handle it

If you attempt to protect the funds in a joint account only after your spouse empties it and/or begins to spend frivolously, do not become discouraged. It is not uncommon for courts to order spend-happy spouses to repay half of what they took, oftentimes with penalties. Moreover, if your spouse violated an injunction that prohibited certain behaviors, such as spending the funds in a joint account, the courts may charge him or her with criminal contempt.

Regardless of which route you choose to take, never do anything drastic or final without first consulting with your attorney. An experienced divorce lawyer is familiar with state law and the local judge’s prior rulings and can help you avoid making mistakes that will cost you in the long run.