Can a Spouse Legally Withhold Money in Divorce?

If you find yourself wondering whether your husband can legally withhold money from you during a divorce, it’s natural to have concerns. Divorce often upends the financial benefits of marriage, leaving both spouses to support separate households. But what if one spouse is taking advantage of the other? Unfortunately, financial abuse is more common among women than men. In this article, we’ll explore the factors that determine whether a spouse can withhold money and discuss the signs of financial abuse.

Can a Husband Legally Withhold Money in Divorce?

To put it simply, the answer is “It depends.” Several factors play a role in determining whether a spouse can withhold money:

  • Is the money considered separate property?
  • What legal rights do you have to this money?
  • Which state do you live in?

However, it’s crucial to focus on more important questions like your options in the situation, taking care of yourself, and what the future holds for you and your children. If you’re asking this question, it’s likely indicative of deeper issues. Let’s explore why financial abuse is more prevalent among women.

See also  Exploring Legal Separation with Garrity Traina

Why Financial Abuse Occurs More Often Among Women

While accurate statistics on gender-based financial abuse are scarce, internet searches for “Can my husband legally withhold money from me?” outweigh searches about wives withholding money. Here are five possible indications, although personal experiences may vary:

1. Financial abuse is correlated with domestic violence, predominantly affecting women.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, financial abuse is encountered by 94% to 99% of domestic violence survivors, with women more likely to experience all forms of domestic violence.

2. Men often control financial planning in a marriage.

Studies show that a majority of high net worth women defer long-term financial decisions to their spouses. This leaves them vulnerable to financial vulnerability, especially regarding retirement planning, long-term care, and insurance.

3. Women tend to prioritize non-financial aspects of marriage.

In many marriages, women take on responsibilities such as raising children, managing the household, and balancing work and household duties. This often results in women trusting men to handle financial matters, leading to vulnerability.

4. Men generally display more interest in financial matters.

Financial planning is still predominantly male-dominated, as men show greater interest in money-related topics. This gender disparity persists despite efforts to make financial services more appealing to women.

5. Men are more likely to be the primary earners in one-income families.

Census data reveals that one-income families are more common for husbands than wives. This financial dynamic contributes to the spouse’s control over money.

Understanding the reasons behind financial abuse’s prevalence among women is crucial when assessing whether your husband can withhold money from you during a divorce. Another essential consideration is whether the money is marital or separate property.

Marital Property vs. Separate Property

Marital property refers to assets acquired or shared during the marriage, while separate property includes assets brought into the marriage or obtained independently. An equitable distribution of marital assets occurs during divorce, with each spouse receiving a fair portion. Here are examples of marital and separate property:

See also  Affordable Legal Services in Stark County, Ohio

Example of Marital Property

A joint bank account funded by both spouses’ paychecks during the marriage is an example of marital property subject to equitable distribution.

Example of Separate Property

An inheritance of $100,000, deposited into a personal bank account and kept separate from marital assets, is considered separate property.

Disputes often arise when determining whether an asset qualifies as marital or separate property. Spouses may use various arguments, each situation unique. Here are some common justifications:

Argument #1: “I earned this money, so it’s mine.”

This argument typically constitutes financial abuse, used by the primary earner to intimidate the dependent spouse. However, in some cases, it may warrant consultation with a financial advisor specializing in divorce planning.

Argument #2: “I had this money before our marriage, so it’s mine.”

This argument is valid if the money remained separate property and wasn’t commingled. Commingling occurs when separate property becomes indistinguishable from marital property.

Argument #3: “I inherited this money, and it wasn’t intended for you.”

If the inheritance remains separate property, having never been commingled, this argument may be valid. However, combining inherited money with other marital assets normally negates its status as separate property.

Argument #4: “This money is in a separate bank account under my name.”

Owning a separate account doesn’t automatically classify the assets as separate property. If the account contains money earned during the marriage, it’s likely marital property, regardless of its type.

Argument #5: “I earned this money after we separated and decided to keep our finances separate.”

Whether this argument is valid depends on the separation agreement, support agreements, and divorce decree terms. Evaluating these factors alongside the supporting facts is crucial.

See also  Phoenix Law Group Debt Settlement

State laws further complicate the division of assets, categorized as community property or equitable distribution states.

Community Property States vs. Equitable Distribution States

State laws influence how assets are divided during divorce.

Equitable Distribution States

In most states, divorce results in an equitable distribution of assets, which doesn’t guarantee an equal split. Instead, the distribution considers each spouse’s circumstances and the negotiated terms. Assets may be treated differently based on legitimate reasons, such as one spouse keeping the house while the other receives a greater share in a retirement account.

Community Property States

Community property states split all marital assets 50/50, regardless of their nature. Nine states follow community property rules: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Separate property is typically excluded from the 50/50 split.

Determining whether your husband is withholding money illegally involves understanding financial abuse.

What is Financial Abuse?

Financial abuse seeks to control a person’s economic resources, limiting their financial autonomy and self-sufficiency. It’s a form of domestic violence without overt physical harm. Financial abuse often coexists with other domestic violence behaviors, enabling the abuser to maintain control. Recognizing signs of financial abuse is vital. Here are common indicators:

Signs of Financial Abuse

Financial abuse manifests through various behaviors, all aimed at reducing the victim’s independence and maintaining control:

Employment-related abuse

An abuser may restrict the victim from working outside the home, diminishing earning potential and isolation:

  • Sabotaging job opportunities
  • Stalking the victim at work
  • Preventing access to job search resources
  • Coercing the victim to stop working

Forcing the victim into unwanted debt

Increasing dependence, abusers force victims into unmanageable debt:

  • Opening credit cards in the victim’s name
  • Identity theft
  • Forcing loans or financial agreements
  • Manipulating financial decisions through violence or coercion

Restricting or preventing access to funds

Abusers maintain control by limiting the victim’s access to money:

  • Controlling all financial decisions and withholding information
  • Giving the victim an allowance
  • Spending money from joint accounts excessively
  • Prohibiting involvement in banking or investment decisions
  • Manipulating benefits or demanding money from the victim
  • Hiding assets
  • Interrogating the victim over small expenses

These signs go beyond ordinary marital issues. If you experience them, seeking help is crucial. Take immediate action to ensure your safety.

Steps to Consider

If you’re in immediate danger, prioritize your safety and that of your children. Reach out to support services like the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. Once safe, they can connect you with resources such as divorce attorneys, state agencies, and child support services. For non-emergency situations, consider taking these steps:

  • Open a personal bank account
  • Close joint credit cards and maintain a card in your name
  • Regularly check your credit history for any unexpected accounts
  • Consult a family law attorney, including pro bono options
  • Gather important documents such as financial statements, insurance policies, and estate planning documents
  • Obtain a separate mailing address
  • Change passwords for all online accounts

Remember, seeking help is crucial in overcoming financial abuse and ensuring a better future for yourself. For more information and assistance, visit Garrity Traina.