Rhode Island Divorce – Bank Account Issues in Family Court!

In the event of a divorce through the Rhode Island Family Court system, the bank account(s) that you hold together or separately with your spouse might be among the first issues to be discussed, whether you want it or not.
Couples who contemplate divorce from their spouses typically be able to identify as one of their primary concerns banks accounts. This could be due to one of many reasons. The primary reason is that it is likely to be the main source of all liquid financial resources that can be used to provide a divorce attorney with the funds needed to help you through the family court process. The other reason is that it is the source of money used for the settlement of marital or family obligations, and without these funds, bills will not be paid, or children will not be able to afford food to take in. Another reason could be that one of the spouses is scared that the other one will lock them out of their bank account and withdraw “their half” of the money and that it will not be returned.
One of the most frequently asked questions I get during consulting with me about divorce for potential clients is this “The account is in both of our names. I am worried that my husband (or wife) will file for divorce and take all the money. What should I do?”
In legal terms, prior to the divorce proceedings being filed, the funds belong to the two parties on a joint account. Also, both have the same right to the money in the account (absent any extenuating circumstances which might give an argument to that effect). So, if one of you takes all the money from the bank, it is not a sign of any crime. However, that does not mean that you are entitled to all that money or that you do not require to pay it in the future.
Rhode Island laws regarding divorce are based on principles of fair distribution. Although this may not necessarily mean equal distribution among the two parties, it is usually where judges begin divorce cases. Suppose this is the most common way for judges to begin with. In that case, it is neither unusual nor unjust to have a divorce lawyer advise clients to take only 50% of the money in a joint account to protect themselves from being stripped of all money by the spouse that is not. However, this should be subject to an additional caveat. A divorce lawyer offering this advice is typically not telling you that if you take out the majority of the money in the marital bank account, you have the right to keep them or that you will not be required to report the funds or be required to pay all or any portion of the funds back or offer an offset to the funds to solve your dispute.
After the divorce case has been filed, banks in the name of the spouse or you will be thought of as “frozen,” except for the payment of expenses and costs usually paid with these funds every month. Therefore, a Rhode Island divorce attorney might offer this advice not to provide you with an income stream but as a precautionary measure. There are times that the money can normally be used with no adverse decision by the court of your home.
Always consult with your divorce attorney regarding what you can and cannot do with funds you withdraw from any bank account, even before filing for divorce. While no court order can determine the things you can and cannot do with the money you take out that you are legally entitled to, the other party may make use of your spending habits against you in court and cause permanent harm to your case through tipping the judge in favor of your spouse.

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