Will separate bank accounts protect my money in a divorce?
The short answer is probably not, although separate bank accounts may protect your non-marital assets in a divorce...
How does equitable division work when there are separate bank accounts? Do I need to worry about my non-marital assets becoming marital assets? How can I protect myself and my money in a divorce? Below, I'll talk about why keeping separate bank accounts is not the best strategy to protect your money in a divorce in SC, as well as some methods that do work to protect your money in a divorce.
If you are considering divorce - or if you are considering marriage and you are thinking about ways to protect yourself in the event of a divorce - call the Myrtle Beach divorce lawyers at Axelrod and Associates now for a free consultation.
Separate Bank Accounts Will Not Protect Your Money in a Divorce
If we keep our money in separate bank accounts, we are making it clear that we don't intend for our money to be marital property, right?
Not so fast...
In SC, separate bank accounts may not protect your money. Money and other property that is brought in while you are married will most likely be considered marital property, which means that it will be subject to equitable division by the family court during your divorce proceedings.
Equitable Division of Marital Property and Separate Bank Accounts
Regardless of whose name is on the bank account, money and property accumulated during the marriage may be subject to equitable division by the family court. The Court will not necessarily split marital assets 50/50, either. The decision is made after considering factors that include:
- Duration of the marriage;
- Ages of the spouses at the time of marriage and at the time of divorce;
- The physical and emotional health of both spouses;
- Income earning potential of both spouses;
- Additional training that may be needed for income earning potential;
- The value of marital property;
- The amount of non-marital property;
- Tax consequences;
- Marital misconduct;
- Liens, mortgages and other encumbrances on the property;
- Child custody;
- Previous support obligations for either spouse from a prior marriage;
- Both spouses' retirement benefits; and
Why Should I Keep Separate Bank Accounts?
This doesn't mean that you should never have separate bank accounts, and separate bank accounts can help to protect your property in some cases.
For example, if you have money in your bank account at the time that you enter the marriage, that money is non-marital property. How can you protect it and keep it from becoming marital property?
If you maintain a separate bank account and keep careful records, you may be able to preserve your money as non-marital property. On the other hand, if you commingle your pre-marriage funds with income during your marriage, use the non-marital funds for marital purposes, or add your spouse's name to the account, the funds can be transmuted into marital property that will subject to equitable division.
Although it may not affect the family court's decision as to the division of assets, there are practical reasons to maintain separate bank accounts. For some people, it just makes sense to have separate bank accounts for personal expenses and a joint bank account to pay bills, or to just have two separate bank accounts and decide who pays which bills.
Another benefit to separate bank accounts is that your spouse cannot deny you access to your funds if you become involved in a bitter divorce - even if the funds are considered marital property, it makes sense to protect yourself by having at least one bank account and one credit card in your name only...
If Separate Bank Accounts Don't Work, How Can I Protect My Money in a Divorce?
Although keeping separate bank accounts may not protect your money in a divorce, there are other things that you can do to safeguard your assets, including:
Protect Your Non-Marital Property
Before you tie the knot, take stock of your assets and ensure that your pre-marital assets and funds are maintained separately. Keep a separate bank account and records for your money and do not add your spouse's name to the title of any property that you do not want to become marital property. Be careful not to commingle the funds or use them for marital purposes.
Similarly, if you receive an inheritance, keep it in a separate account, do not add your spouse's name to the title of any property, and take care not to commingle funds that came from the inheritance.
Get a Prenup
The single most important thing that you can do to protect your money in a divorce is to enter into a prenuptial agreement before you are married.
In the prenup, you can predetermine how your property will be treated in the event of a divorce, including:
- The disposition of assets that you and your spouse owned before entering the marriage;
- The disposition of assets that you or your spouse acquire during the marriage;
- Who will be responsible for paying debts that were acquired before the marriage;
- Who will pay attorney fees in the event of a divorce;
- Whether the growth of premarital assets or businesses will be considered nonmarital property; or
- Any agreement as to money or finances based on the couple's unique circumstances.
If you do not enter a prenup, all marital property will be subject to equitable division by the family court and that may include money that is kept in separate bank accounts...
Get a Separation Agreement
Another way to protect yourself is to enter a separation agreement with your spouse as soon as you know that you are considering divorce. Talk to your Myrtle Beach divorce lawyer on the Axelrod team early in the process so that we can negotiate the best outcome before you get to your divorce hearing.
The separation agreement can decide terms like child support, child custody and visitation, alimony, and disposition of assets. Although the family court is not required to honor your separation agreement, in most cases the court will adopt the terms of the agreement in the final divorce decree if it is fair and in the best interest of your children.
Keeping separate bank accounts will not necessarily protect your money in a divorce in SC, but there are other ways to preserve your assets.
If you are considering separation, divorce, or marriage, call your SC family court attorney at Axelrod and Associates now at (843) 916-9300 or fill out our contact form to set up a consultation.