EP 38: Can I Take Money From My Joint Account?

Welcome to the thirty-eighth episode of the Divorce and Your Money Podcast. Shawn Leamon, MBA and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, discusses the question of whether or not you can take money from your joint account during the divorce process.

The most difficult part of a divorce can be determining how you are going to pay for it. The cost of hiring an attorney, a financial analyst, a therapist, and others can costs thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.

Having to pay your bills, too, can become difficult when you are going through divorce. Determining whether or not you can take money from your joint account can be a lifesaver, and you need to be aware of several key points.

The most important point is timing, which can govern whether or not you can and how much money you can get from the account.

You need to know if you have filed for divorce before you withdraw money from the account. If you haven’t, then it is easy and possible, but taking a substantial sum from the account can create complications between you and your spouse. If it is your only option, though, you might as well take as much as you need. State laws vary about this matter, and you need to make sure your attorney is aware of the situation.

If you or your spouse has already filed for divorce, complications arise. Some states include with their divorce filings an automatic temporary restraining order (ATRO), which varies in different states, and it can forbid you from withdrawing a large amount of money from the account. Doing so would be illegal, so you need to be aware if an ATRO applies in your case. Some states allow funds in the joint account to be used for payment of everyday expenses, but others completely freeze the account.

If you don’t have an ATRO, the situation changes a bit. You are likely entitled to half of the funds in that account.  If you are having trouble paying for your divorce expenses, you can go to the court and have your spouse pay for them or allow you to have access to the joint account.

Key Learning Points:

  • The cost of hiring an attorney, a financial analyst, a therapist, and others can be quite expensive.
  • Timing of any withdrawal is the most important point concerning withdrawing money from a joint account.
  • You can withdraw money from the account if you haven’t filed for divorce.
  • If you or your spouse has filed for divorce, the account could become locked under an ATRO.
  • Different states have different rules that govern this issue.

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