How to Close Down Joint Accounts During a Divorce
Separating your life from another person can seem like an endless journey requiring a million steps. Many articles focus on the big picture tasks related to divorce, but you also need to know about all the nitty-gritty things, too, like how to close down joint checking accounts. With that in mind, here are some things to know about this important topic.
When you begin the process of divorce, you will soon learn how challenging it can be to untangle your life from your ex-spouse, including your finances. If you and your ex share joint checking and savings accounts, you’ll eventually need to divide these assets before the divorce can be finalized. If your spouse is fighting the divorce or trying to make your life difficult, you may need to act fast.
Put a freeze on the account
The specter of divorce affects different people in different ways. Unfortunately, it can bring out the worst in spouses, especially when it comes to money. The first thing you want to ensure when the divorce process gets underway is that your spouse cannot unilaterally empty out your joint checking and savings accounts. If this does happen, the court will likely require your ex to reimburse you, but your money could be slow in coming. (Your spouse could also try to hide assets.) Don’t put yourself at risk. For any bank account you are concerned will be wiped out, such as your savings account, call your bank and request a freeze unless both parties authorize a withdrawal. Usually, you can simply explain that you are in the process of getting a divorce, and the bank will grant this request. Be sure to tell your spouse you are doing this, so there aren’t any unhappy surprises the next time he stops by the ATM.
You have options
Once your vulnerable accounts are frozen, you can go ahead and take action to divide your assets. A quick, clean, and easy way to do this would be for both spouses to open new accounts in their individual names and split the money in the shared accounts in a way that both sides feel is fair. Of course, this is often much easier said than done. You may think splitting the shared assets in half is fair, while your spouse may argue that since he earns more, he should get more. Try to keep an open mind and even temper and search for solutions rather than sticking to your preference out of spite. At the same time, don’t back down if you feel the split isn’t fair. Once all the money is out of the shared accounts, you can close them out.
If one spouse opens their own accounts and takes a portion of the money from the shared account, the other spouse may be tempted just to keep the shared account. But if you keep the shared account, you’ll want to change it so that you are the sole owner of the account. No matter how much you trust your ex-spouse, you should never allow open access to your checking and savings accounts after a division.
We know you have a lot to worry about during your divorce, but don’t let joint checking and savings accounts linger. Even just putting a freeze on the account can give you some breathing room so you and your spouse can deal with that issue when you are both ready.
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This article is reprinted with permission from the Women's Institute for Financial Education (WIFE.org), creator of the Second Saturday Divorce Workshops. Founded in 1988, WIFE is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing financial education for women. Copyright 2019