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Should You and Your Spouse Share A Joint Account?


Published on March 1st, 2021

Regardless of a spouse’s employment status, wealth, or age, how each individual spends or saves money, and each spouses’ earnings during the marriage can become serious points of contention.  While discussing money can be uncomfortable, all individuals bring at least some assets or debts into a marriage.

Differing views on money can become a growing source of conflict in a marriage over time, and due to this unfortunate reality, ideally, a couple should understand each other’s opinions and habits before their marriage. However, very often, the subject of sharing accounts or finances does not come up until after the couple says “I do!”

So if the question doesn’t come up until after marriage, how should one address the issues of sharing a joint account with his or her spouse?

What Are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Having A Joint Account?

Joint accounts can be a healthy and transparent way to help foster communication and trust between a couple. When spouses have shared goals and expenses, keeping a portion of their funds in a joint account can make sense. Doing so can make it easier to manage finances, and should an unforeseeable event occur or in the case of an emergency or death, the presence of a joint account allows the other party to access funds immediately.

However, with the unfortunate reality that nearly two-thirds of all marriages start off in debt, it is possible or even likely that one spouse will enter into the marriage with more individual debt than the other.  As such, combining accounts with someone who has extensive debt can place the other spouse in a financially vulnerable position. Typically, a spouse wouldn’t be legally responsible for repaying a spouse’s debt that was incurred prior to the marriage.  However, once a couple combines finances in a joint account, creditors may attempt to link one spouse’s premarital debt to the other.  This could not only result in resentment and arguments between a couple but in a divorce proceeding, could also lead to a potentially lengthy and costly legal battle over the allocation of the disputed debt.  In addition, sharing a joint account can often be frustrating for the more financially responsible spouse or be restrictive to the more free-spending spouse.

What Are Some Options and What Works For You?

Many couples embarking on a marriage opt for a hybrid model of maintaining both joint and separate accounts. In these situations, a spouse would maintain an individual account (or accounts) that were active before getting married, but also open a new joint account or accounts with their spouse.  The couple may decide, for example, to contribute money into the joint account each month to cover household expenses such as a mortgage or utility bills, as well as any debt incurred during the marriage. This joint financial effort can help to foster a feeling of shared responsibility while also offering some economic freedom for each partner.  Dependent upon a couple’s comfort level, as the length of their marriage increases they may get to the point where they are comfortable depositing their paychecks directly into a joint account.

But every marriage is different. Whether keeping separate accounts, having all joint accounts, or utilizing a hybrid model is best for one’s marriage will depend on a variety of factors. If possible, prior to the marriage, it would be prudent to discuss how each spouse views money in general and the pooling of their accounts and resources specifically, so the couple can plan ahead and consider any benefits or drawbacks specific to their particular situation.

The skilled and top-rated attorneys at Davis Friedman are here to help.  Contact us today to assist with your divorce or family law matters and gain a thorough understanding of all of your financial responsibilities as they apply to your marriage.

Have questions? Contact us about working together.

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