Marriage usually involves two people supporting each other and sharing resources. Spouses usually share every cent that they make, often by combining their incomes to pay household expenses. They usually share a bank account to make it easier to track the household budget. The intimate nature of combined finances means that people often feel very vulnerable in the early stages of divorce. They worry about what might happen if their spouse does something unethical. For example, when both people have their names on a checking account, one spouse might potentially empty the account entirely.
Such financial maneuvers can leave someone without the necessary resources to cover their mortgage or rent. They might also worry about the impact that misconduct would have on property division matters later in the divorce. What happens when one spouse empties out a joint account before or during a divorce?
Financial misconduct may constitute dissipation
Pennsylvania requires an equitable distribution of marital assets, which means that one spouse can’t intentionally deprive the other of assets they should share. If one spouse uncovers evidence that the other has withdrawn resources from shared accounts, liquidated shared property or accrued a massive amount of debt, they need records of those transactions.
The financial documentation that a spouse has could help them show the courts exactly what their spouse has done. Intentionally taking marital assets could constitute dissipation and may influence what the courts do with the remaining marital property. Financial misconduct such as wasting resources or trying to eliminate them from the marital estate can affect how the Pennsylvania family courts divide property.
The courts can and very likely will hold one spouse financially accountable for misconduct that diminishes the value of the marital estate. Those who worry about financial misconduct can sometimes prevent inappropriate behavior by asking the courts to freeze their financial accounts when they initially file for divorce.
Most people benefit from maintaining thorough records to be in a better position to demand accountability if their spouse engages in some kind of misconduct. Seeking legal guidance and knowing how the courts handle inappropriate financial transactions may help people better respond to a spouse emptying their bank account or similar financial moves during divorce.