Many married couples use joint bank accounts to pay bills, living expenses, entertainment, and incidentals. Typically, each spouse may make deposits and withdrawals, and joint bank accounts usually work well when a marriage is stable. However, if separation or divorce is on the horizon, things can get messy. One spouse may attempt to withdraw some or all of the funds in an account to ensure they have cash or to spite their partner. Even if you believe you can handle a split with your spouse on your own, finding an affordable divorce attorney can protect your rights.
Are Bank Accounts Considered Marital Property?
Property division laws vary from state to state. In Pennsylvania, both individual and joint bank accounts may be considered marital property. Even if a spouse has his/her own individual account, funds may be considered marital unless if they came from an inheritance or belonged to the person before the marriage.
What Happens if My Spouse Withdraws Money from Our Bank Accounts?
Unless you and your spouse come to a mutual divorce settlement agreement outside of the courts, a judge will review all marital property and determine how to divide your assets. Although Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, this does not necessarily mean everything will be split 50/50. If one spouse withdrew a significant amount of money and was not authorized to do so, they may be penalized by the court. A judge may order them to:
- Return the funds to the bank account
- Give the other spouse property of equal or greater value
- Pay legal fees, fines, and other sanctions
- Reduce the percentage they receive when determining how marital assets are distributed
Family law attorneys sometimes request that the court place an order prohibiting either spouse from removing joint funds. If you and your spouse share a mortgage, car payments, or other joint debts, the court may allow them to be paid from a joint account. If your spouse takes all or a significant amount of money from your bank accounts, top divorce lawyers in Chester County, PA can help protect your rights. However, if you fail to contact an attorney right away, your spouse could easily spend the money and make it very difficult to recoup.
What if One Spouse Needs Money to Move Out?
If you believe it is best to leave the family home, it is important to keep records of any money you take and how it is spent. Withdrawing more than 50% of the money in a joint bank account will be scrutinized by the court. Keep track of rent payments and other living expenses so you have proof to show the court where the funds went. Some other factors that will be taken into consideration are child support payments, alimony payments, and any other financial issues specific to your case. Your Divorce attorney can advise you of the most effective course of action to protect your interests.
At Perna & Abracht, LLC, Our experienced divorce lawyers fight to protect your rights and help you understand the divorce process. If you are going through a divorce and need to update your estate plan, our top Divorce lawyers in Chester County and Support attorneys can assist you with those issues as well.