For many spouses, the beginning of the divorce process, or even the possibility of divorce, breeds a level of mistrust that can result in extreme defense tactics. One area that tends to arouse suspicion on both sides are the marital finances, including bank accounts, investment funds and credit cards. Worries over whether one's spouse will clear out the joint bank accounts or max out the credit cards out of spite, or to inflate the “marital lifestyle” may be entirely valid depending on the state of one's marriage. Then again, the philosophy of “the best defense is a good offense” is not always applicable in the game of divorce.
A common strategy employed by many spouses at the beginning of the divorce process is closing out any and all accounts to which they have access. Spouses may try to play fair by leaving half, or what they deem as a sufficient amount for their partner. Doing is is not illegal as long as the accounts are in your own name, or held jointly with your spouse, provided that there is no court order prohibiting the dissipation of marital assets. However, just because something is legal doesn't mean that it won't be viewed with suspicion by your spouse's attorney, or even worse, the judge presiding over your divorce. Hence, a consultation with an experienced divorce attorney should be the first step in safeguarding your marital finances. In fact, even if you're not quite ready to divorce, reviewing your financial rights and legal options with a divorce attorney is essential to protecting yourself from the uncertainties of a failing marriage.
The advice that your attorney gives you will be based on the circumstances of your marriage, and the level of financial protection that you may need. For example, do you have reason to believe your spouse will cut you off, or engage in out of control spending? Has your spouse kept you in the dark about your finances during your marriage? Are you worried that your family's bills and expenses won't be paid unless you take control over certain accounts? These questions often touch on complex and sensitive issues such as hidden assets, substance abuse and domestic violence. The need to safeguard one's finances in these situations is critical, but significant disruptions to the status quo of the martial finances could have a negative impact on your divorce settlement.
The lesson here is that you must be prepared to defend any and all actions taken right before and during the divorce process. Even if you have the legal right to take certain actions, civil suits often involve the examination of moral and ethical misconduct. Hence, it's extremely important to weigh the pros and cons, and the possible consequences of removing major sums of money from your shared or individual accounts that were acquired during the marriage. For more information on safeguarding your marital finances during the divorce, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLca, P.C.