Many potential clients contact our office with concerns regarding how they will survive or protect themselves financially upon the filing of a divorce action. One major concern for these potential clients is what will happen to the funds in a joint bank account shared with their spouse once a divorce action is filed. They wonder if funds from the joint account can be used to cover household expenses or if their spouse has the right to withdraw all the funds from the account. Once a divorce is filed in Georgia, the court where the case is filed will issue what is called a “standing order.” Each county has their own version of a standing order. Generally, the standing order provides guidelines for how the parties should conduct themselves while the divorce action is pending. They include a provision that spouses are not to dispose of or remove any property of the parties without permission from the court, with the exception of the withdrawal being in the ordinary course of business or for an emergency created by the other spouse. “Any property of the parties” includes joint bank accounts, meaning that the parties to a divorce action should not remove funds from a joint bank account unless it is in the ordinary course of business or for an emergency created by the other spouse. When it comes to what is in the “ordinary course of business,” most standing orders do not provide specific examples. However, it is understood to mean expenses that are routinely incurred by the parties’ household prior to the filing of the divorce action. Examples would include a mortgage payment or household utilities.
WHAT IF MY SPOUSE VIOLATES THE STANDING ORDER AND TAKES ALL THE FUNDS OUT OF OUR JOINT BANK ACCOUNT?
If a party is found to be in violation of the standing order, he/she can be held in contempt of court. If found to be in contempt, the offending party may be required to replace the funds or his/her property settlement in the divorce case may be negatively affected.
WHAT IF MY DIVORCE IS HOSTILE AND I HAVE GENUINE CONCERNS THAT MY SPOUSE IS GOING TO TAKE ALL THE FUNDS OUT OF OUR JOINT BANK ACCOUNT?
If you are genuinely concerned that your spouse will deplete all the funds from your joint bank account, it may be advisable to withdraw 50% of the funds from the joint bank account and put them in a separate account. A spouse considering taking this action should first consult with an experienced divorce attorney. If he/she decides to withdraw 50% of the funds from their joint bank account and deposit them in a separate account, he/she should maintain detailed records for the separate account and ensure that the deposited funds are only used in the ordinary course of business or for an emergency created by his/her spouse. The party should also notify his/her spouse that the funds have been withdrawn and work together with his/her spouse to ensure that their ordinary household expenses are covered.
WHAT CAN I DO PRIOR TO FILING FOR DIVORCE TO PROTECT THE FUNDS IN A JOINT BANK ACCOUNT?
To avoid the issues that may arise in dealing with joint bank accounts after a divorce is filed, it is recommended that potential clients discuss their joint bank accounts with their spouse and work out an agreement to divide the funds prior to the divorce being filed.
Dealing with the financial concerns associated with a divorce, such as what happens to joint bank accounts after filing, can be very overwhelming and stressful. In these situations, clients can truly appreciate the counsel of an experienced divorce attorney. If you are considering filing for divorce, contact The FLFAttorneys at (770) 485-6633.