Can My Ex Freeze My Accounts During a Divorce?

Dealing with divorce is bad enough, but having your accounts frozen during this process can represent an added source of stress. What happens when you are trying to pay for groceries, and all of your cards are denied at the checkout? You may experience a serious sense of panic, especially if you have no other accounts to fall back on. Can your ex even do this legally in North Carolina? Are banks allowed to freeze accounts that you previously relied upon for your living costs? This is a somewhat complicated subject that many spouses encounter as they deal with property division and complex assets during divorce.

Why Accounts May Be Frozen During Divorce

While it may come as a shock to learn that your accounts have been frozen, this is actually quite common during North Carolina divorces. After one spouse files for divorce, they may provide the court with a list of shared accounts, including savings accounts, checking accounts, and credit cards. These might also include certain brokerage accounts. Upon receiving this list of accounts, the courts may decide to contact the relevant banks and order the freezing of these accounts.

Will the Bank Let Me Know Before My Accounts are Frozen?

Generally speaking, banks are under no obligation to notify you before freezing your accounts. Sometimes, the only way spouses find out about this development is when they try to use their debit cards or withdraw cash. That being said, some banks may provide warning. In addition, your family law attorney in North Carolina may also provide you with warning, as they will likely be watching developments in the courts with keen interest.

Will I Lose Access to Money Held in Frozen Accounts?

While seeing your assets frozen can certainly come as a shock, it is important to realize that this might actually be beneficial for you in the long run. By freezing the assets, banks are protecting these funds from a range of potential issues. If the accounts are left untouched, spouses could potentially withdraw, destroy, or transfer the funds without the other spouse’s knowledge and before anyone can stop them. Spouses with financial knowledge may also invest the funds or use complicated strategies to exert greater control over the family’s wealth.

Perhaps most notably, it is important to remember that you will regain access to these funds at a later date. The freezing process is only temporary, and these assets will once again become available to spouses when the property division process is complete. At this point, it should become clear how the assets should be divided based on North Carolina’s equitable distribution system. Each spouse will have the ability to withdraw their fair share at the conclusion of the divorce.

How Will I Pay for My Living Costs if My Accounts Are Frozen?

Having your accounts frozen can cause issues for those trying to make ends meet, especially if you have no income or back-up bank accounts to draw upon. Fortunately, it is possible to receive a type of temporary spousal support before your divorce is even complete. This might be especially critical if you have dependent children to look after. Speak with your divorce attorney in North Carolina to determine the best way to pursue financial support as you navigate this difficult time.

Separate Accounts Should Never Be Frozen

If you owned an account prior to the divorce and it contains only separate funds, this account should not be frozen. For example, you might set aside a certain amount of money in a high-interest savings account prior to the marriage. This account contains separate assets, and so it should not be frozen in the same way as a joint account that was opened during the marriage. The same applies to inheritance. For example, you might have received inheritance before putting these funds into a bank account. This account is also separate, even if it was established during the marriage.

Where Can I Find an Experienced Divorce Attorney in North Carolina?

If you have been searching for an experienced divorce attorney in North Carolina, look no further than Arnold & Smith, PLLC. We know that spouses may encounter all kinds of financial issues as they approach divorce, and having your accounts frozen is just one example. Book your consultation today to discuss a range of other subjects, such as complex asset division, high-net-worth concerns, and much more. Although internet research serves as a positive first step for many spouses, it cannot replace targeted advice from a real attorney. Reach out now to get started with an effective action plan.