Opening a joint bank account is not a crime. Your spouse can do it, for example, because he and his business partner are pooling funds for a new venture, and he doesn't need your permission to do so. In divorce cases, however, the rules for what he can do with his money are different because you're entitled to a share when you split. Laws vary among states, and if you suspect your spouse of wrongdoing, you may wish to consult a local lawyer.
If your marriage is in trouble and depending on the circumstances, the joint account may be an example of what lawyers call "dissipation of assets." Dissipation happens when a marriage is failing and one spouse spends marital assets on things that don't relate to or benefit the marriage. That doesn't necessarily make it a crime for your spouse to open any new accounts. However, if he opened a joint account with a close friend who then withdrew everything, you might suspect dissipation and tell your attorney.
A joint bank account isn't proof of dissipation if your marriage is doing fine, or if your spouse has been using such an account for years without your permission. It's only after you have problems that it becomes an issue. Even if nobody's filed for divorce, moving money out of your reach in anticipation of a break-up is not a practice that courts look on favorably -- and once one of you files divorce papers, judges take a particularly dim view of either of you trying to hide or spend assets.
If you want to shut down the joint bank account or reverse the money transfer, your lawyer must show a judge that your spouse is doing something wrong. For example, if your spouse has moved in with his girlfriend, cleaned out your bank account and deposited it in a new joint account, you'd have a good case. Your spouse then has to explain how he spent the money and why it was a legitimate use of marital assets.
Even though it's usually legal for your spouse to open a joint account, that doesn't make it a good idea. If, for example, he opens an account with your son to help him out financially, there's nothing to stop your son from sucking the account dry. If your son gets hit with a judgment for unpaid debt, his creditors can empty the account. Talk to your spouse about the downside of opening a joint account if you think there's a risk of losing the money.
- Financial Web: Joint Bank Account Facts to Consider Before Opening One Read more at http://www.finweb.com/banking-credit/joint-bank-account-facts-to-consider-before-opening-one.html#ihJrIzvldHvJKRfo.99
- TheBankruptcySite.org: Dissipation of Assets
- Gitlin, Busche and Stetler: Divorce: Spouse Spending Money for Non-Marital Purposes
- Journal of the DuPage County Bar Association: What Constitutes Dissipation of Marital Assets?
- Bankrate: Risks of Joint Bank Accounts
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.