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What to Do with Your Joint Account after a Divorce

Dealing with your joint bank accounts after a divorce is important to avoid any issues in the future. Here’s information that will get you started.

Ending of a marital relationship can be daunting and overwhelming at the same time, so paying attention to your financial well being is important if you’re heading toward a divorce. If you have joint accounts, knowing what you can do with them will make the process a little bit easier.

What should I do first after divorce?

Start by closing any joint accounts you may have. Establish your own pool of funds in an account only in your name, while ensuring that your partner has no access to it. Have your pay transferred to this account.

Carry out a financial stock take that lists all your assets and debts, which include joint debts in your name. If the divorce is to result in the division of jointly-owned assets you should calculate your net worth ahead of time.

Make a note of the date of separation. You should do this because applying for a divorce requires that you remain separated for a period of at least 12 months. If your name finds mention on the rental agreement you may be liable for unpaid rent and other expenses. If you’re the one moving out, make sure you update the rental agreement.

Going back to singlehood can be hard for many, especially when it comes to paying bills and everyday spending. As a result, budgeting and setting goals is crucial. One way to start is by listing your complete financial information, which includes rent, utility bill payments, credit card and loan repayments, bank account balances, investments, superannuation accounts, insurance policies and tax records.

If, at any point, you’re unsure about what to do, seek legal assistance through a qualified solicitor or financial advice from a financial planner.


Closing your account

When should I close my joint account?

This depends on how cordial, or not, your separation is as well as how much you trust your ex-partner with money in the account. You can close the account as you as you begin the process of separating.

How do I close my joint account?

If the account has an ‘either party to sign’ requirement you can close the account on your own, by simply contacting your bank. However, if the account has a ‘both to sign’ requirement you’ll also need your ex-partner’s signature to close the account. If your ex-partner is unwilling to close the account you can request for the bank to freeze it until your divorce proceedings are complete.

Can I take half of the money out before I close the joint account?

Normally, you have the right to half of all marital funds. So, yes, you can withdraw half the money from a joint account before you close it. However, if the account requires both to sign you’ll need your ex-partner’s signature to make a withdrawal. If you opened the account selecting the ‘either party to sign’ clause you can withdraw your share at any time.

Who closes the joint account after the money is withdrawn?

With accounts where either party can sign, you or your ex-spouse can close the account. Otherwise, both have to sign on the account closing form.


What happens to my children’s bank account after divorce?

Accounts that you or your spouse may open in your children’s names don’t count as marital assets in divorce proceedings. If your children are less than 18 years of age the court would have a say in which parent controls the accounts. However, funds in the account remain for the children’s use. If a child is over 18 years old, he or she is free to use the money in any manner.

There can be a problem if either you or your spouse put money in a child’s account to hide it during the divorce. Bear in mind that all assets acquired during your time as a couple need accounting for in court, so moving your money makes little difference.

Do I need to do anything to my personal account?

Other than ensuring you’re the only signatory on the account, there’s little else to worry about on this front. You can add the money you withdraw from your joint accounts to this account. If you get a substantial sum, you can think of what to do with it next.

If you had little to no control over finances when you were married, it’s all the more important that you make efforts to take charge. Remember that getting back on track may take time. Look at your personal account at a starting point.

Who can I speak to for legal advice?

If you think you need legal advice at any step of the way, get in touch with a solicitor immediately. A solicitor can help you freeze any joint accounts, even if it entails a visit to your bank. Your solicitor can help you deal with property held in joint names. If a property is in your ex-spouse’s name alone, your solicitor can prevent its sale through legal action, until the final divorce settlement. You can also get your solicitor to update your will.

Shirley Liu

Shirley is finder.com.au's publisher for banking and investments. She has completed a Masters in Commerce (Finance) and is the author of hundreds of articles. She is passionate about helping Aussies make an informed decision, save money and find the best deal for their needs.

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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    jeffreyApril 27, 2017

    can a divorced person on pension open a joint bank account with ex wife and in doing so will this raise centrelink’s enquiries and trouble for me. just asking not yet done

    • Staff
      MayApril 27, 2017Staff

      Hi Jeffrey,

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      Basically, you can open a bank account jointly with someone you really know and trust – they can be your parents, brother, sister or even a partner. As for opening a joint account with your ex-wife, make sure that she’s also willing to open the account with you as the bank would basically need both your signature, income details, etc. and would assess both your financial situation.

      Additionally, when you are on Centrelink payment, that would not affect your application for a bank account in general. I’m not really sure what you meant by raising your Centrelink enquiries and if opening an account jointly with ex-wife will cause you trouble. If you could further elaborate, I would be happy to further assist you.

      Furthermore, if you like to get more information on opening a joint bank account, you may find this article helpful.

      Cheers,
      May

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