Many married couples have joint bank accounts. Each spouse has the right to make deposits into the account, and, each spouse has the right to withdraw from the account any amount up to the total balance.
It’s common for married spouses to have joint accounts for practical and romantic reasons. Practically, the couple is pooling their resources to pay all their shared bills, such as rent or mortgage, motor vehicle payments, and living and childcare expenses. Romantically, joint accounts also support that both spouses are in the marriage equally– even if one makes more money than the other.
Joint accounts typically work well while a marriage is strong. But, when a marriage is crumbling, one spouse might attempt to act fast and withdraw part or all the funds in the account—no matter how they got there. One spouse usually makes large withdrawals during a separation or a divorce to help them move while leaving the other to suffer economically. Most of the time, aggressively withdrawing from a joint bank account won’t give that spouse a long-term advantage, and they could face severe legal ramifications for doing so.
Joint Bank Accounts are Marital Property Under Texas Laws
Under Texas laws, joint bank accounts are marital property. When it comes to asset division, both spouses have a legal claim to their joint assets. Property is only separate property if it came through inheritance or belonged to one spouse before they got married. Family court judges consider any deposits made to a joint bank account proof that the funds were marital property, not separate property.
Family courts have the authority to review the value of all marital property before finalizing the divorce, including the value of any jointly held bank accounts. The judge also has the duty and authority to divide the funds equitably. Keep in mind that equitably does not mean equally. For instance, a family court judge might decide one spouse should be awarded 60 percent of the marital property, including joint bank accounts, and not an equal 50 percent.
How Family Courts Handle Funds Withdrawn from Joint Accounts
When one spouse withdraws a large amount of money from a joint account during the process of divorce or separation, the family court judge has the discretion to:
- Order them to deposit the money back into the account.
- Order them to give the other spouse something of equivalent value.
- Order them to pay legal fees, fines, and other court-ordered sanctions.
- Penalize the spouse in the calculation of equitable division—for example, instead of receiving 50 percent, a spouse who withdraws funds could receive a lower percentage.
Sometimes judges, at the request of experienced Texas divorce lawyers or on their own order, will issue mutual restraining orders against removing any joint funds while a divorce or separation is ongoing. Although, there may be pre-approved withdrawal exceptions, such as paying a mortgage or other joint debts.
Did Your Spouse Withdraw Money? Contact a Texas Divorce Attorney at Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda PLLC Today
If you find out that your soon-to-be ex-spouse has withdrawn an unusual amount of money from your joint bank account, arrange to speak with a seasoned Texas divorce lawyer at our firm as soon as possible. Contact Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda PLLC today at (210) 222-9132 or online.