Jon + Kate: When Can Spouse Withdraw Money from Joint Accounts?

October 17, 2009 | Divorce, Legal Perspective, Marital Property

Icon for author Brian Vertz Brian Vertz

My friend from the East, Michael Viola, publishes a great divorce blog that occasionally chronicles the divorce of Jon and Kate Gosselin (which has been playing out in Eastern Pennsylvania). Recently Michael reported about a series of motions in which Kate accused Jon of withdrawing $230,000 from their joint bank account, leaving nothing for Kate. Michael summarized the law concerning spousal withdrawals, which is worthwhile reading.

I have a couple of rules about spousal withdrawals:

1. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Some lawyers advise clients to withdraw as much as they can before litigation commences.  I generally do not subscribe to this advice. It is a surefire way to foment litigation and hard feelings, which impedes settlement. Still, it is not always wrong to withdraw some of the money to pay joint debts or set up a nest egg to pay household bills and professional fees during separation.

2. Use freeze orders judiciously. One technique to prevent a raid against the marital savings is an injunction to prevent unauthorized withdrawals. We can’t obtain an injunction until someone has filed a support or divorce action, however, so freeze orders can’t prevent pre-emptive strikes. Still, some judges will force spouses to return the money if the issue is promptly brought to the court’s attention.

3. Logic is persuasive. If there is a good logical reason to withdraw the money or preserve it, let your lawyer know as soon as possible.  Contentious motions can be avoided if both spouses agree to set aside money for year-end taxes or tuition bills; and if they don’t agree, a judge may be persuaded.

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