What are a spouse’s rights to money in a joint bank account?

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What are a spouse’s rights to money in a joint bank account?

My sister is getting a divorce. She has been married for less than 6 months. My parents gave her a substantial amount of money as a dowry when she got married. She deposited this money in a joint bank account with her husband. The husband cleared out all the bank accounts and refuses to give her any money. She only has a copy of the check as proof and a bank statement. Does she have a case in court? Will it be difficult for her to prove her case? Will she be entitled to at least half of the money?

Asked on January 4, 2012 under Family Law, Michigan

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for her.  Your sister needs to seek help from an attorney in your area as soon as she possibly can.  First, when she depositied the funds in the joint account it was an intent to make the separate property marital property so it will be part of the assets for distribution in the divorce.  But her husband can not take it all and clear out the accounts.  It is known as a dissipation of marital funds.  The portion of the funds to which she will be entitled depends on if she lives in a community property state (50/50 split) or and equitable distribution state (equitable but not necessarily equal).  And it depends on other factors as well.  Good luck to her.


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