My husband asked for a divorce recently. Once I move beyond the initial emotional shock of the situation, I began thinking about the financial ramifications of our marriage ending. One of the items to consider is what to do with joint bank accounts.
Who Gets to Keep the Bank Accounts?
Every expert I’ve talked to about divorce and finances agrees that it’s best to separate finances as quickly as possible. This includes closing joint bank accounts and opening different accounts. I didn’t want to give up the main account, though.
Most of my finances are automated, and many of the automatic bills, from insurance premiums to my student loan payments, come out of the account that my soon-to-be-ex husband and I used to share. The last thing I wanted was to set up new payment information for all of those accounts.
The good news is that, even if you have a joint account, it’s possible to remove one account owner. Because my ex is setting up new accounts in his name, it was easier for him to open a new account and begin using it for his own automatic billing. I called my bank and asked about the process of having my husband’s name removed from the joint account, and it was surprisingly simple.
The bank had a single-page form to fill out. All we had to do was fill out and sign in front of a notary, and then mail it back. As soon as the bank received the form, my husband’s name was removed from the account, and now it’s entirely in my name.
Convenience and Digital Banking
We had to complete all the steps outlined by the bank to remove my husband’s name from the account remotely because we opened the account at a branch in New York more than 12 years ago. In some cases, banks require you to submit the information to the originating branch. This can create difficulties in our increasingly mobile society. The mail-in option worked well for us because we lived hours away from the original branch.
Banks that operate almost completely online might be another story, though. You might be able to scan and email requisite forms, or go through some other process of having one of the joint account holders removed from the account. Double check ahead of time, though, to ensure that you follow proper procedure and avoid delays.
Digital banking is convenient. The rise of automatic debits and payments can make it easier to ensure that your bills are paid and that you avoid some of the delays that come with mail forwarding of hard copies. Electronic payments and online bill pay have been helpful to me as I’ve made two cross-country moves in less than a year.
However, it occurred to me that all of this automation gets to a point where you might be trapped to one specific bank. Closing the account and making all of the changes to a new account can be tedious and time-consuming. I know the thought of moving all of my payments to a new account — especially when I already felt the stress of the divorce — made things worse. Being able to simply remove my husband’s name from the account and keep everything the same helped a great deal.
What do you think of your bank account? Are you attached to it? What would you do to keep your bank account?