How to Close Down Joint Accounts During a Divorce


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 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. Learn more
about how to financially protect yourself during a divorce in our
special section of divorce articles for women.