Many married couples use joint bank accounts. In fact, they may get married and combine all of their finances into a brand new account that they open just for themselves. They may then use this joint account to do things like pay off credit card bills and/or pay the mortgage. The money they earn at work may get deposited directly into the account.
During a divorce, a couple’s marital estate needs to be divided. This means (in part) taking steps to split up joint financial activities, such as closing a shared bank account. Is that something that you should consider if you are going through a divorce? And how should you go about it?
Understanding the steps that you’ll need to take
It absolutely can be helpful to close a joint bank account during a divorce. You’ll want your future checks from work to be deposited into your own account in order to better ensure that your spouse doesn’t try to clean the account out and leave you with nothing. But you often cannot close a joint account on your own. Financial institutions are also aware of the potential for fraud, and many of them have regulations stating that both people named on an account have to come to the institution together to close it.
In some cases, they may allow one person to close it if they have written permission from the other. The key is to understand exactly what rules your financial institution has and to follow them precisely. After all, you’ll want to avoid giving the impression that you are trying to hide assets from your spouse. If the two of you have the majority of your shared funds in a joint account, and you withdraw them and close the account without your spouse’s explicit consent, that’s likely going to make your divorce a lot more complicated – and potentially more contentious.
It’s best, if you can, to work with your spouse to withdraw money, divide it, close the old account and then open your own accounts with the portion of the money that belongs to you – along with future deposits from your paychecks. This situation can get complicated, so be sure you understand your legal options before committing to a specific approach.