Can I take half the money out of our joint bank account?
Everyone knows a divorce can be messy and drag out into a legal slugfest that seems to ultimately benefit no one. And what about joint bank accounts? Must you wait for the courts to divide the contents down the middle or can you just go ahead and withdraw your portion? Here’s the thing. A divorce filing gives rise to many legal issues, especially regarding marital and community property. There’s also a chance that an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order (ATRO) may have been filed that prevents either spouse from withdrawing any funds at all until things are sorted out. Here are the factors you should consider.
Before Legal Action
In general, by definition, a joint bank account entitles each spouse to half of the assets it contains. Unless there are other mitigating factors, which we’ll get to in a moment, you should feel fairly safe to withdraw up to half the money in a joint account prior to any legal action commencing. When two people hold a joint bank account, each has equal right, in the eyes of the law, to withdraw and spend up to half the contents any way they choose. You don’t need the permission of the other account holder for that. Keep in mind this is likely to be the case BEFORE any divorce action has started.
After Legal Action
Any time a spouse files for divorce there may be an accompanying request to freeze all assets until the courts have sorted everything out. That’s where the ATRO comes in. Think of it as a restraining order for property, which includes contents of any checking accounts. The task before the court is to decide which property was brought into the marriage (known as separate property) and which has been accumulated during the union. It makes a difference.
For example, if the joint checking account in question was filled solely with money from a spouse’s inheritance that was distributed before the marriage, there’s a good chance the other spouse will have no legal right to any of it, or perhaps only a reduced portion. The bottom line is the court does not take kindly to a party to a legal action deciding unilaterally to take half of any contested asset.
Sadly, divorce often devolves into a game of trying to hide jewelry and other valuable assets from the other spouse, perhaps cleaning out accounts and selling off investments, all without the other party’s knowledge or consent. It’s understood that not having enough money to live on during a legal proceeding, especially for a low or no-income spouse, is a matter of great concern. The question of how much (if any) you would be safe to withdraw from a joint account leads us into our next point of discussion.
Talk to Your Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer First
Family law, which divorce falls under, is too complex a topic for the average person to try and sort out on their own. Your best bet is to talk to a divorce attorney first, preferably without telling your spouse about it. While you may decide to make every effort to reconcile, you need to know where you stand legally, and what your options are when it comes to accessing a joint account.
The Bottom Line
Here’s something to keep in mind. Only nine states practice the “community property” concept which allows for the equal distribution of all property and assets. Forty-four states go by the concept of “equitable distribution,” which takes into account factors like earning capacity and physical or mental health. The end result might well be lopsided. Ultimately, ask your attorney to cover all these points before you make a withdrawal. Otherwise, you might end up forced by the court to pay it back.
Can I take half the money out of our joint bank account?
Here’s an article from Zooomr, a car lease tech startup. When you’re getting a divorce, one of the first questions you probably have is about your finances. You’re likely wondering how to make sure you get your equitable share of the marital assets. This may be all you have for survival, so it’s critically important.
Perhaps your spouse made threats to run off with the marital funds. Perhaps they promised that you’d get nothing if you went through with the divorce. Maybe these things haven’t happened, but you’re still wondering how to protect yourself.
Can I take out half the marital funds?
In Los Angeles, whether you can take out half the marital funds all comes down to the timing of your case. State lawsays that as soon as the divorce begins, neither party can transfer funds out of the marital accounts. You’re allowed to use the accounts to pay for ordinary, daily expenses, and that’s it.
This rule goes into effect as soon as one party serves the other with divorce papers. Until then, you’re still free to transfer funds as you see fit. As soon as service of process is complete, you have no option to transfer funds other than for ordinary expenses.
What are my options?
The best way to access your funds is to transfer the money you may need before you or your partner file for divorce. That way, you have the funds you need, and there’s no issue with Los Angeles divorce laws. If that’s not an option, there are a few other ways that you can get the help that you need.
First, you may be able to transfer assets with the consent of the other party. That is, if they agree in writing to allow you to transfer the funds, you won’t get in trouble with the court for doing it. This is something that you can work on with your Los Angeles divorce attorney to request from the other side.
In addition, you can ask the court to make an exception. You can ask the court to allow you to transfer the funds even if the other party doesn’t agree. You can also ask the court to award you temporary support payments. This is called temporary maintenance. Temporary maintenance can provide payments to help you meet your expenses while you wait for further court proceedings. The amount of maintenance you receive is largely based on your respective incomes.
A request for temporary maintenance can happen quite quickly. You need to complete papers to file with the court. You can work with your attorney to pursue temporary maintenance if transferring marital funds isn’t an option at this point in the case.
What happens if a party transfers assets?
If a party transfers assets despite laws or court orders, they can be held in contempt of court. That is, the court can penalize the person who transfers the funds. The court can impose a number of different remedies that might include ordering the person to return the money, ordering them to pay a fine or even ordering them to give the money to the other spouse outside of any other property division. The exact remedy depends on the specifics of the case.
Each case is different
If you’re considering a divorce or you’re already in the middle of one, a skilled New York divorce attorney can help you figure out the the best course of action. In your case, it might be wise to move assets before you file for divorce. When you’re concerned that the other spouse might try to stop you from accessing funds or even try to run off with marital funds, this might be the best choice.
On the other hand, there may be reasons that transferring the funds might not be the best idea. If you don’t think your spouse is likely to try and hide funds, transferring the money might send the wrong message. It might make the case hostile off the bat.
In either event, it’s important to work with an experienced attorney in order to determine the best course of action. They can give you guidance as to what you should do given the nuances of your case. It’s important to give your attorney complete information, so that they can give you advice that’s relevant to your case.
What if I transfer the funds?
If you decide to transfer funds, it’s important to document your actions. You need to be able to show the court where you move the money and how much you move. This can give the court confidence that you’re moving money for the right reasons.