How to Close Down Joint Accounts During a Divorce

Separating your life from another person can seem like an endless journey requiring a million steps. Many articles focus on the big picture tasks related to divorce, but you also need to know about all the nitty-gritty things, too, like how to close down joint checking accounts. With that in mind, here are some things to know about this important topic.

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 the 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.

We also encourage you to educate yourself about the divorce process by attending a Second Saturday Divorce Workshop in your area.

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13 thoughts on “How to Close Down Joint Accounts During a Divorce”

  1. I filed for divorce and in the divorce it says the Joint bank account should now belong to me and my husband signed the divorce papers and it is now filed. Can I bring that document to the bank to close the joint account? It has nothing in it except for less than $100

    1. I think it’s simpler than that. Call the bank and ask how you close a joint account. They may tell you that you simply write a check for the amount in the account, and it closes automatically once that check clears since there’s no money in it.

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  3. My husband left the marriage. Seriously left and quit coming home. He did go to the bank and took me off the account without my consent. Is this legal?

    1. Life imprisonment, for sure – not even a trial, just straight to jail. If your state has restraining orders against this and you violate them, a judge certainly could impose monetary sanctions. I hear of sanctions being imposed where a spouse is closing accounts and hiding money or absconding with it. Don’t do that.

  4. Hi,
    I’m sepperated and have an attorney.
    My question is , I have to ask for an investigation on a closed joint account.
    I’m told consent form the ex is needed.
    If consent is not given what action can I do two as investigations go forward without consent?
    Is there a motion my loyer can enter or something similar. If not what could I do?
    DF of you have advice instead of contacting my lawyer.

  5. Barbara Diaz-Hower

    My husband asked me to go to bank to have my name removed from joint account. In event of divorce do I still have right to funds since I was on it and it is marital property I just don’t want to fight.

    1. That’s a good question to ask an attorney who is familiar with the laws of your state. If funds in just the name of one party alone are still considered marital property in your state, then that shouldn’t be a problem.

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