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Handling your finances during a divorce

When couples with significant assets choose to divorce, there is often a temptation on both sides to act in their own best interests and begin seizing assets for themselves, potentially complicating the divorce process later on.

This is particularly complicated when the couple shares access to financial accounts. Many couples do not understand the divorce process thoroughly enough to realize that the actions they take in their own self interest may actually come back to hurt them further down the road, and may even result in punitive action from a court.

Before you go drain your joint bank account to protect yourself in a divorce, you should carefully assess your circumstances and the actions you may take. It is also wise to understand that you may need to take action quickly to keep your soon-to-be-ex spouse from draining your accounts and leaving you with a much more difficult road to a fair resolution. Do not wait to take stock of your legal options and exercise your rights to protect your own interests and priorities.

Why not drain a joint bank account?

This depends on specific factors of your divorce. If you have access to your family's primary checking and savings account and there are few other assets, then draining the accounts is going to raise major red flags with your spouse and may draw needless attacks in the divorce process, possibly resulting in legal consequences.

However, if you and your spouse both have access to the funds, then you probably both have the legal right to control those funds, and you may be well within your legal rights to take as much from the account as you want to. In many ways, this is an advantage granted to the party who chooses to file for the divorce, because the other party has less of an opportunity to drain resources.

Realistically, even if you can get away with draining an account initially, it does not cast you in a favorable light before the court. If you take all the funds in an account, even if you have the legal right to do so, a court may order you to repay your spouse's portion of the value of the account later on. This may cause additional complications if the accounts do not have sufficient funds to cover any automatically drafted expenses.

Take action to protect your rights

In general, it is wise to take roughly half of the funds in such an account, to ensure that you receive what you rightfully deserve without needlessly complicating the rest of the divorce process. Take special care to understand the legal implications of any particular course of action before you commit to it, for the sake of protecting your rights and priorities throughout this difficult season and beyond.

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