You’re in the midst of divorce proceedings. You go and check the balance of the joint account you have with your soon-to-be former spouse. It is completely empty. In this situation, it is easy to panic. Can your spouse do this? Can you get the money back? What do you do now? Here is more information on what happens when your spouse empties the joint account in a divorce.
When Your Spouse Empties the Joint Account in a Divorce
When two people are joint owners of a bank account, each of them has an equal right to access the funds held in the account. Essentially, this means that, under ordinary circumstances, either co-owner of the account would have the right to empty it regardless of who deposited what into the account. Divorce, however, is not really “ordinary circumstances.” This is because funds in a joint account held by spouses will be considered marital property in a divorce. The funds belong to both spouses regardless of who made what deposits into the account. Because of this, if one spouse removes all funds from the account, the court is likely to still consider that withdrawn money as belonging to both spouses and, as such, will still be subjected to equitable division during divorce proceedings.
Sometimes, one spouse in a divorce will clear out half of the funds in a joint savings or checking account they share with their soon-to-be ex. Courts generally do not find this problematic as long as the funds held in the account were marital. It is especially viewed as acceptable if the spouse withdrawing the funds has a well-founded and legitimate fear that their spouse may make an attempt at clearing the entire account and they withdrew half the funds in order to protect them. It is worth noting, however, that clearing half of the funds from a marital bank account may not be frowned upon by a judge, but it may put your spouse on defense and make them more combative as a result. As such, only remove funds after you have carefully considered the potential implications of doing so.
When a spouse removes all the funds from a joint account, however, it is often the case that such a move will land them in legal trouble. This can be even more true if the account was cleared in an attempt to conceal the funds. The Ninth Circuit Court here in Orlando, Florida has a standing administrative order in place that binds all divorce litigants. This administrative order prohibits parties from unilaterally dissipating or concealing assets, including bank accounts. Therefore, should a party to a divorce withdraw all the funds from a marital bank account, they may face a motion for contempt for violating this administrative order.
Florida Family Law Attorneys
Are you worried about the safekeeping of assets while your divorce is pending? Talk to the trusted team of family law attorneys at Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou about your options. Contact us today.