What Happens If One Spouse Empties The Joint Bank Accounts Before Divorce?

Home / What Happens If One Spouse Empties The Joint Bank Accounts Before Divorce?

by | Sep 7, 2021 | Blog

Many married couples find that having a joint bank account is the most convenient method to keep their finances. Therefore, during their marriages, most couples have one or more joint bank accounts. Each spouse can withdraw money, deposit money, and move money from one account to another. The accounts are often used to pay for joint living expenditures and other bills such as auto payments, energy bills, mortgage payments, credit card payments, and so on. When things are going well in the marriage, joint accounts are rarely an issue. However, when troubles arise, and the marriage breaks down, resulting in separation and divorce, things become a different story. When a marriage has reached the point where it is no longer friendly, divorce can be unpleasant and stressful. 

Any assets or funds in a joint account are considered marital property during a divorce. Therefore, even though one spouse was responsible for most of the contributions, these funds belong to both spouses. This means that a court will consider the money to belong to both divorcing spouses even if one person removes all of the funds. There will almost certainly be serious consequences if one spouse empties a joint bank account, especially intending to deprive the other spouse of it and/or in disobedience of a judge’s orders. The court is likely to penalize the act with fines or an order to pay the other side’s attorney expenses in addition to offsetting this amount in the remaining asset and debt split.

For example, if a wife withdraws $15,000 from joint savings account a week before filing for divorce, her husband may be entitled to $15,000 in property that he would have received in the divorce if she had not removed the cash AND the court may require her to pay her ex’s attorney’s fees.

Other ways in which this could jeopardize your divorce settlement include:

  • Require you to reimburse the missing funds through monthly alimony payments (or limit the amount of alimony you would have gotten otherwise)
  • Compel you to pay for some of your spouse’s expenses (lawyers, forensic accountants, investigators, expert witnesses, and so on);
  • Give your spouse a larger share of your assets than you had intended.
  • Impose costly penalties.

That is why, if you have issues regarding when you can take funds from a joint account during a divorce, you should counsel with a divorce attorney. Levencrown Family Law Counsel experts assist all types of couples in resolving the numerous challenging financial issues of divorce. Our top Divorce Lawyers in Ottawa will help you with all of your family’s needs and work tirelessly to ensure that you get the outcomes you deserve.