Super Lawyers Logo

Home » Can I Empty My Bank Account Before a Divorce?

Can I Empty My Bank Account Before a Divorce?

March 5, 2024

In some marriages, there may be a good reason for a spouse to worry about losing access to money during a divorce because the other side has or will take control of the couple’s shared finances. If you are anticipating divorce and have such concerns, you may be tempted to empty your bank account before filing for divorce to ensure you have funds to support yourself. While you may have the right to the money to a certain extent, there are strict rules about if, how, and when to take that step.

What Are Your Rights to Money in a Joint Bank Account Before a Divorce?

With a joint account, both parties have equal rights to the funds. Thus, you could empty the account without the other one’s permission. However, anything you do that is out of the ordinary, such as depleting a bank account, will be scrutinized by the court particularly if it’s done immediately before filing for divorce. The court will ask you to account for what you did with the money to determine whether it is an appropriate use.

When Is It Acceptable to Withdraw Money From a Joint Bank Account Before Divorce?

If you are concerned that your spouse will cut off your access to money once the divorce action is filed, thus making it difficult for you to pay expenses for your daily needs, you may withdraw some funds, and you must keep records of how you spent those funds. For example, using them to pay for housing, food, expenses related to your children, and other essentials is permissible. You may also use the money to pay for an attorney to represent you in the divorce.

The rationale for this rule is that it can take months to get a court date asking a judge to award temporary support. If your spouse is controlling, litigious, or difficult, you may not have the funds to support yourself in the interim, so the court will likely understand that you withdrew money for legitimate expenses.

Can You Close a Joint Account Before Divorce?

There may be valid reasons to close a joint account if you fear your spouse may create liability. For instance, you withdraw half the money from the account to meet your daily needs but leave the account open. Your spouse takes a line of credit or overdraws on the account. Your name is still on the account, so you will be liable for paying that debt. In such a case, it may be best to close the account. However, as with the other exception, you must document how you spent the money withdrawn from the account and use the funds for legitimate purposes.

Can You Stop Direct Deposit Payments of Your Paycheck into a Joint Account Before Divorce?

You can stop having your paycheck deposited into a joint account before divorce, but the same rule applies. You must keep records of what you did with the money.

What Happens Once a Divorce Action is Filed?

Once you file for divorce, the Automatic Orders rule goes into effect. It requires the parties to maintain the status quo concerning the family finances and children during the entire pendency of the divorce. That means you cannot empty your joint account unless your spouse consents or you get a court order first. 

If you are considering divorce, it’s important to prepare financially. Our attorneys can advise you regarding what information you need to gather and how to address your fears of having no funds. We are highly experienced in addressing the myriad issues arising in divorce and can help protect your rights at every stage. Contact us for a consultation today.

Search Our Website


Recent News

Carole Topol Orland Named One of the 2024 Women of Westport

We’re excited to announce that our Partner and founding member, Carole Topol Orland, was recently named one of Westport Lifestyle’s 2024 Women of Westport. Carole was one of only 11 phenomenal women chosen for this honor, which celebrates the dedicated small business...

Landmark Decision Reshapes Connecticut Third-Party Visitation Law

In a landmark decision that alters over two decades of Connecticut law governing third-party visitation, Samuel V. Schoonmaker, IV, Of Counsel at Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC successfully represented a woman seeking visitation with her niece under General...

Westport Law Office Map
Greenwich Law Office Map

Phone: 203-222-4949
Fax: 203-227-0766

Tell Us About Your Case

"*" indicates required fields

Contact Preference

Super Lawyers Logo