In a marriage, it can be quite convenient and efficient to have a joint bank account to manage household finances. Joint checking savings accounts are useful during a couple’s marriage, but when a marriage breaks up, they can become points of contention or used improperly.
If you’re going through, or planning on, a divorce in Nashville, you may have questions or concerns about a joint bank account. We’re here to provide some guidance.
About joint bank accounts
With a joint bank account, two people “own” the account and both have equal rights to the funds in it. So, no matter who puts in the money and how much, either owner can technically empty the account at any time. However, in the case of a divorce, there can be nuances.
During a divorce, the court typically considers funds and assets in joint accounts to be marital property. That means the funds belong to both spouses – even if only one spouse made the majority of deposits. And when a joint account is considered marital property, the funds in that account belong to both spouses.
Repercussions of emptying a bank account
If your spouse takes money from your joint bank account without notifying you and files for divorce, empties the account after filing, or withdraws from the account against court order, he or she may face legal repercussions. Depending on the specifics of the situation, he or she can be ordered to replace the funds and pay additional fines. In some cases, if the divorce has already been filed and the statutory injunction is in place, the wrongful party may be charged with criminal contempt.
The court could order other or additional penalties, like adjusting the division of marital assets and property. For example: Chris withdraws and spends $20,000 from a joint savings account and files for divorce from Kelly. The court penalizes Chris by awarding Kelly $20,000 worth of marital assets and property that Chris would otherwise have received in the divorce agreement.
Protect your assets during a divorce
You should always consider your joint bank account marital property. And, like all your valuable assets, keep it safe and secure so that in the unfortunate event of a marital split your assets and funds are divided fairly. In certain cases, a judge may actually order limited access to the account by both parties, with approved exceptions.
If you are in the beginning stages of a divorce, you should maintain the “status quo”, that is, keep your direct deposit going into your joint bank account, for example, unless your lawyer advises you differently based upon your unique situation. Or, you and your spouse might agree to close the joint account and split the funds between two new accounts. However, it’s wise to speak to an attorney before making any financial moves, especially during this delicate time.
Ensure you protect yourself and your assets in the event of a divorce. The Nashville divorce attorneys at Miller Upshaw Family Law, PLLC are here to help. Our experienced lawyers are here to answer all your questions. Please call 615-391-4200 or use our contact form to schedule an in-person or video consultation at our Nashville office.
Karla C. Miller has devoted her entire career to the practice of family law in Tennessee. She attended Auburn University and Nashville School of Law, and upon graduation in 1996, she opened her own law firm and has been assisting families throughout Tennessee since then. Learn more about Karla C. Miller here.