What If A Spouse Empties Joint Bank Accounts In A Divorce Case in Oklahoma?

Bank Accounts In Divorce

In Oklahoma family law cases you cannot empty bank accounts in divorce after the initial filing of the case with the court. This is a tactic some try to use as a means of getting a leg up on the division of marital property. Other situations may even involve those where one spouse is trying to impoverish the other spouse making it hard for them to live. In Oklahoma there is specific laws that govern this situation and as a whole the division of marital assets in a final decree.

Understanding Joint Accounts In Oklahoma

In the Sooner State, financial matters during a divorce and division or property are guided by “equitable distribution” principles. This means that the court will divide marital assets including family businesses in a manner deemed fair and equitable. This does not necessarily mean equal. In terms of joint accounts, any deposits during the course of the marriage are marital assets. This is because money you earn during the marriage, as the result of marital industry, is a marital asset. Regardless of which marital partner went to work and earned the money, that money is being earned for the marriage. This is what deems it a marital asset.

Can Your Spouse Legally Empty Bank Accounts in Divorce?

Technically, if the bank account is joint, both parties have equal rights to access the funds. However, emptying the account without mutual agreement could potentially be an attempt to deprive the other spouse of their share of marital assets. During the marriage, there’s a presumption that either party can take money from the account. However, they cannot take the money out and secret it away in another account. This is even if it’s for the purpose of leverage in a divorce. Additionally, if they take the money out after the filing of the divorce, they may be in violation of the marital restraining order or automatic stay.

Oklahoma Automatic Stay and Divorce

In Oklahoma, as well as most other states, when you file a divorce case, an automatic stay often goes into effect. You will sometimes here the stay referred to as a temporary restraining order or an injunction. In either case they are referring to the same thing the automatic stay. This stay is there to prevent both spouses from taking actions designed to harm each other or the marital estate. Some examples such as dissipating assets, destroying each others property or emptying out bank accounts. The stay even includes issues related to child custody. The basic premise is that nothing should happen outside of what occurred prior to the divorce filing. If one spouse empties a bank account in violation of the automatic stay, they may be subject to legal penalties, including fines or orders to reimburse the other spouse for the amount taken.

Penalties For Emptying Bank Accounts In Divorce

Should a spouse empty the joint account after the initial filing of the divorce or without a Temporary Financial Order, this could be a violation of Oklahoma law. The violation could end up in a contempt of court citation action with the courts. If the Courts finds that one of the parties to the divorce willfully violated the automatic stay by emptying the bank accounts in divorce that party could face sanctions. They may even have to pay attorneys fees of the other party, as the courts can order payment for waste, neglect, or destruction of marital property. The court can adjust the property division or require payment to offset the unilateral depletion of marital assets.

Tulsa Okla. Divorce Attorneys Near You

Divorce proceedings can be complex, and when it comes to financial matters, the stakes are high. While a spouse in Oklahoma may technically have the right to withdraw all the money from a joint account, doing so without the other spouse’s knowledge or consent may look unfavorable by the courts. If done after the divorce filing it looks even worse, and could lead to financial penalties. Always consult with a qualified family law attorney when it comes to navigating the complex financial waters of divorce. Remember, while the initial fear of a spouse draining a joint account can be stressful, Oklahoma law provides avenues for recourse. To learn more, call the Tulsa divorce attorneys at Kania Law Office. Dial it, (918) 743-2233 or contact us online.

Tulsa's Local Family Lawyers

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