Beginning your divorce on a level playing field is tough if your spouse wants to win it at all costs. To gain the upper hand, they may empty your joint bank accounts. If they leave you without access to marital funds, you may wonder how you will pay for your divorce. Yet, if your spouse decides to drain your joint bank accounts, they will likely face consequences.
The risks of emptying joint bank accounts
As co-owners of your joint bank accounts, you and your spouse can both technically withdraw any amount of funds from them at any time. Yet, this does not give either of you leeway to empty them. Before a couple divorces, it is inadvisable for either spouse to remove more than 50% of the funds available in their joint bank accounts.
Emptying joint bank accounts is an even riskier move after a divorce filing. Once you or your spouse file for divorce, the court will issue a temporary order of protection. This order will – among other things – enjoin you two from disrupting the status quo of your marital property, including your joint bank accounts. If your spouse violates this order, the court could order sanctions against them. These sanctions could include a fine, as well as the payment of your attorney’s fees.
The consequences of emptying joint bank accounts
New York follows equitable distribution property division laws. Under these laws, the court will divide you and your spouse’s marital property in a manner fair to both of you. Depending on your circumstances, you and your spouse may not receive equal shares of your marital property. Yet, the court will aim to put neither of you at a disadvantage with its decision.
If your spouse empties your joint bank accounts, whether before or after one of you files for divorce, the court may consider their actions when awarding marital property. It is possible your spouse could receive a lesser share than they would have had they upheld your accounts’ status quo. It is also possible the court could order your spouse to repay you your portion of the withdrawn funds. Your spouse could face other consequences as well, determined at the court’s discretion.
You have ways to hold your spouse accountable if they empty your joint bank accounts. To determine your best option for doing so, you will want to consult a family law attorney.