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What happens if, either before or after divorce papers are filed, one spouse cleans out a joint bank account and spends the money on gifts for, or a trip with, a new girlfriend or boyfriend?

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When a spouse is served with a summons for divorce, attached to the summons is a document titled “Notice of Automatic Orders.” This notice has the legal effect of a court order prohibiting a party from accessing any marital property and using it for any other purpose than is necessary in the ordinary course of business or meeting your day-to-day needs. Cleaning out a joint bank account for this reason would be considered a “dissipation of marital assets.” The party who removed these funds would be ordered to replace them and/or give the other party a credit as part of any final settlement. If getting the offending party to take the proper steps to rectify the loss required litigation, they would be responsible for the other party’s attorney fees.

 

If a spouse raids a joint bank account for extramarital purposes before a divorce action is begun …….this may be considered the wasteful dissipation of marital assets and the spouse may be responsible for putting this money or equivalent value back in the marital pot at divorce time. For example, if one spouse spends money on a paramour, such as jewelry or vacations prior to divorce, those funds would be a credit to the other spouse when they get divorced.

© 2017 Joanne Monagan

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