If your spouse cleans out the joint account before a divorce, can you legally get that money back?
Answer: Maybe, even likely.
Sometimes the court will let your spouse keep all the money, if the court determines that there was an equitable or just or other compelling reason for doing so.
For example, if you were a horrible money manager or if you had a gambling problem, such that you had wasted marital assets equal to or in excess of the amount of money that your spouse withdrew from the joint account, the court may simply allow your spouse to keep the money he/she withdrew.
But usually the court will find that you were entitled to at least half of the money in the account because the funds in that account are marital property and it is the presumption that marital property will be divided equally, unless there is some compelling reason to make an unequal division.
“Great,” you say, “so the court will declare that I was entitled to half the money, but all the money is withdrawn and my ex spent it all, so he can’t just simply write me a check for the half that I deserve. What do I do now?”
The court can do many things in an effort to remedy the situation, two of which (and which are most common) are:
1) award you a judgment against your ex for the amount of money constituting your half of the account that is awarded to you. For example, if your spouse withdrew $10,000 from a joint account, the judge could award you judgment against your ex in the amount of $5,000. The judge could further order that this $5000 must be paid in monthly installments; or
2) offset the value of the money in the account that should have gone to you against other marital assets. For example, if your spouse withdrew $10,000 from a joint account, and you and he/she own a car worth $10,000, then the court might simply award the $10,000 car to you.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277