This comes up most commonly in two scenarios:
1) non-financial online accounts (like Netflix, Amazon, a social media account, etc.) and 2) separating financial accounts.
1) Non-financial online accounts (like Netflix, Amazon, a social media account, etc.):
The problem that arises with online accounts such as these are many. Sometimes you cannot cancel them at will (because the subscription may be for a year when you’re only partway through the year, for example).
Another problem is worrying that if the right to the use and possession of the joint account is awarded to just one ex-spouse, then he or she might fail to pay the fees or may abuse the account in a way that exposes you to liability.
If the account cannot be divided into two separate accounts, sometimes both members of the couple may want the benefits of the account so much (and can’t replace those benefits with a new account) that they cannot agree who will get to keep the account.
If you and your ex-spouse cannot divide a single account into two separate individual accounts, then the best practice is (even though easier said than done): cancel the joint account and reopen a new one, if you want to continue using the account in the future.
2) Financial accounts:
Typically it’s as simple as withdrawing the money from the accounts and dividing it between you as agreed or as ordered (as the case may be) and then closing the accounts. It would be wise for you and your ex-spouse together (or at least you, if your ex-spouse won’t work together with you) to send to the financial institution a certified letter and e-mail with a read receipt a brief, clear message that you and your ex-spouse are divorced and that in connection with the divorce you and your ex-spouse agreed/were ordered to empty the joint account, close it, and not re-open it and that the account is not authorized to be re-opened or otherwise utilized by either of you in the future.
If that doesn’t work because, for example, your ex refuses to cooperate in then you may have to get a court order to have the money withdrawn and divided and then have the accounts closed. In Utah (where I practice divorce law), the rule for this is Rule 70 of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure:
Rule 70. Judgment for specific acts; vesting title.
If a judgment directs a party to execute a conveyance of land or to deliver deeds or other documents or to perform any other specific act and the party fails to comply within the time specified, the court may direct the act to be done at the cost of the disobedient party by some other person appointed by the court and the act when so done has like effect as if done by the party. On application of the party entitled to performance and upon order of the court, the clerk shall issue a writ of attachment or sequestration against the property of the disobedient party to compel obedience to the judgment. The court may also in proper cases adjudge the party in contempt. If real or personal property is within the state, the court in lieu of directing a conveyance thereof may enter a judgment divesting the title of any party and vesting it in others and such judgment has the effect of a conveyance executed in due form of law. When any order or judgment is for the delivery of possession, the party in whose favor it is entered is entitled to a writ of execution or assistance upon application to the clerk.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277