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Quick Answer:

Can I withdraw money before my divorce is complete?

Withdrawing funds to hide them from the other party in a divorce or to simply deny the other party access to those funds is very likely to cause one a very serious problem in the case. Using such funds for a completely legitimate purpose, food and shelter being the prime example, is justifiable. Accordingly, if one is considering withdrawing funds before or during a divorce, do it openly and with the full intent to account for every penny and justify the use of those funds.

Probably because of what we see on TV and at the movies, we are led to believe that we can put an asset (like our home, vehicle or bank account) in someone else’s name and “hide” it from the government, creditors, etc. (If it were that easy, everyone’s stuff would be in someone else’s name… it doesn’t work.) Similarly, some clients wonder about pocketing money from a joint account or moving it from one’s own account to another bank account without their spouses knowledge.

As you must know in your heart, that is dishonest and if an investigation discovers it, you will not have just your spouse opposing you, but the judge too. Hiding money from a skilled family law investigator is nearly impossible. They have ways and means of which you have never heard. Your lawyer will advise you to be completely forthcoming and honest about all of your assets, whether held in both names or just yours.

Nonetheless, there can be circumstances which require a spouse to withdraw money. A spouse who has no income and needs money to survive – especially if that spouse is caring for minor children, for example – could not be blamed or held accountable provided that the amount taken was justifiable. But, withdrawing funds just to attempt to keep them from the other party to the divorce is generally ill-advised.

Now, withdrawing funds to, for example, pay a marital debt in a circumstance wherein it is known that the other spouse, who usually pays that particular debt, plans not to pay it, can be justified. There can be other times when it can be justified to use marital funds; however, just lining ones wallet with those funds unbeknownst to the other party is not one of them.