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Withdrawing money from joint accounts during divorce

In many Minnesota marriages, the husband is the primary wage earner. Sometimes, the wives don't even know how much money is in their bank accounts. Once someone files for divorce, withdrawals from those accounts may be legally constrained through an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order (ATRO). An ATRO is a court order barring either spouse from making certain financial changes once a divorce action begins.

Since every financial situation is different, women going through a divorce should seek professional advice. Some attorneys say that clients have a right to one-half of the worth of the jointly titled accounts and should secure funds just in case they are later closed out of accounts held by the other spouse. If there is one joint account and the affluent spouse has multiple accounts in his or her name that the non-affluent spouse has no access to, it may be appropriate for that spouse to secure as much money as he or she can to ensure that he or she is not left with nothing.

In New York, these types of withdrawals can only be done before legal action has formally begun, because a New York summons contains automatic limitations on transferring assets. On the West Coast, in California, prior to any legal action being taken, one can withdraw any amount. That completely changes after divorce papers are filed. Clients can take out any funds they need before filing divorce, that way they won't violate any laws later.

Still, some lawyers advise against withdrawing any money. They suggest an advance distribution of funds at the start of a case if a client feels money may be tight during the divorce proceedings. Also, the withdrawal itself could ignite divorce proceedings. Communication from the very beginning is important as well.

Divorce is never easy for either spouse, but when you combine a divorce with property disputes, spousal support and other factors, sometimes the entire process can become overwhelming. It is prudent for any person facing divorce to find an attorney experienced in and who fully understands and will address the difficult issues that arise. Minnesota divorce attorneys will be able to guide you in these personal and legal matters.

Source:, "Divorcing Women: When Can You Withdraw Funds From Joint Accounts?" Jeff Landers, Sep. 17, 2013

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