How to Keep a Spouse From Emptying a Bank Account Before Divorce Papers Are Filed

By Jennifer Williams

Woman at ATM

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Divorce is stressful and sometimes causes people to act out of character. Even if you trust your spouse to keep his head in the face of pending proceedings, it is still a good idea to protect your share of joint accounts before he has a chance to clean them out. You can take steps to protect your cash assets and preserve joint investment accounts before filing for divorce.

Identify all joint accounts, including checking and savings accounts, money market accounts and credit card accounts. Collect all statements reflecting the balance of each account. Keep these documents as evidence of the pre-divorce account balances.

Open an individual bank account and transfer into it half of the balance of all joint checking and savings accounts. Ask for statements of the joint accounts immediately preceding withdrawals, as evidence of pre-withdrawal balances, and statements immediately after the transfer reflecting the reduced balances. Ask for a statement of the new account reflecting the new balance immediately upon depositing the funds, as additional evidence of how much you took and what you did with it.

Notify your spouse in writing of your withdrawals from joint accounts. Note the pre- and post-withdrawal balances and include copies of the pre- and post-withdrawal statements. Deliver the written notice to your spouse after you file for divorce if you do not want to alert him to the fact that divorce proceedings are imminent.

Request statements from all joint investment accounts as evidence of pre-divorce balances. Request, in writing, that the account manager notify you in writing if your spouse liquidates investments or withdraws funds. Keep a copy of the written request and any notifications that result from it as evidence of your spouse's removal of assets.

Give your attorney all account documentation and the written notice you sent your spouse at the beginning of the divorce proceeding. Your attorney may ask the court to freeze the remaining accounts and use your documents in support of the motion. If your spouse tries to liquidate and hide assets, your attorney may use these documents to prove pre- and post-liquidation balances and ask the court to award you additional amounts in marital property to compensate you for the excess money your spouse took from joint accounts.