Joint Accounts in a Divorce

One of the most common questions when a couple seperates is who owns the funds held in their joint bank account and who owes the debt on a joint credit card?

Joint assets

It is fairly common for one spouse to withdraw all of the funds from a joint bank account.  Reasons for such a move usually involve efforts to make sure they have necessary living expenses.  This is often rationalized by the primary wage earner who thinks this is really “my money that I earned.”  Likewise, it can be rationalized by the one making less as necessary to protect themselves financially during the pendency of the divorce.

The Birmingham divorce lawyers William White and Jim Parkman at Parkman White, LLP will attempt to negotiate distribution of any cash on hand in an equitable manner.  However, if the other party sweeps the account of all funds, our attorneys are prepared to petition the court for return of the money on a temporary basis.

We typically advise our divorce clients upon separation or filing for divorce to open their own separate checking account to which only they have access.  Any new money earned or received should be deposited into the new account, and not the old joint account.

Similar action should be taken on joint investment accounts and the contents of any safe deposit box.  An immediate inventory of all joint assets should be taken so you know if any are unilaterally taken by your spouse, and so you can hold them accountable for those assets at the time of the final divorce decree.

Joint debts

If your name is listed jointly on a debt, you are personally responsible.  Your soon to be ex spouse can run up credit card debt, an equity line, or utility bill, and you are still on the hook for payment.  As soon as you separate, you should take immediate steps to take your name off of any joint debt possible and notify the creditor of your impending divorce.  Let the creditor know that as of the date of the notice you do not authorize any new charges, and will not be responsible for paying any new charges.  This notification should be in writing to both your spouse and to the creditor.

The divorce attorneys at Parkman White, LLP can provide you with the immediate first steps you should take to protect yourself and your hard earned assets in the event of a divorce.  We can also help ensure you are not left with debt you did not incur.  Contact our Birmingham divorce lawyers for an evaluation of your case.