Select your state


joint accounts

A joint bank or other financial account is an account in which two persons (spouses, for example) own the account and have equal rights to the funds or other financial assets in it. Joint accounts are generally marital or community property and subject to division upon divorce. Although either party may withdraw or spend the funds in the account, the divorce process (or the impending divorce process) creates additional legal issues and obligations for spouses accessing and using jointly-owned funds or other assets.

If a spouse empties, drains, or otherwise takes funds from a joint account in excess of the traditional use of the account, the court may (1) order such a spouse to return the funds to the account; (2) order such a spouse to pay fines, penalties, and the other spouse’s associated attorney fees necessary to secure the return of the funds or assets; and (3) adjust the division of the marital assets or community property to account for the spouse taking the funds or assets for the spouse’s own use.

And if a petition or complaint (lawsuit) for divorce has already been filed, the court may have issued an order requiring the parties to maintain the status quo (current status) with respect to deposits, withdrawals, expenditures, transfers, and sales from all such financial accounts. A spouse who violates the court’s order may also face civil or criminal contempt charges—a special type of sanction or penalty that may result in fines and confinement in jail. For these reasons, a spouse should talk to a family law attorney before taking any such actions with respect to joint (or other) financial accounts.

In Texas, a joint bank or financial account is typically considered community property and is subject to division during a divorce. Both parties have equal rights to the funds, but if one spouse withdraws money excessively or against the typical usage patterns, especially during a divorce process, the court may intervene. The court can order the return of the funds, impose fines, penalties, and attorney fees, and adjust the division of assets accordingly. Additionally, once a divorce petition is filed, courts often issue orders to maintain the status quo regarding financial transactions, and violating such orders can lead to civil or criminal contempt charges, which may include fines and jail time. Therefore, it is crucial for a spouse to consult with a family law attorney before making any significant changes to joint financial accounts during a divorce.

Legal articles related to this topic