Can Separate Accounts Protect My Savings During a Divorce? 

Shahzad Masood

separate accounts divorce

For decades, the norm was for married couples to merge their finances to pay shared expenses such as bills and mortgage payments. But as the average age at which people are getting married is increasing, partners are entering a marriage with more savings and debts. Consequently, couples’ separate accounts remain separate after marriage. A survey by the Bank of America shows that over a quarter of Millennial couples are keeping their finances separate.  

While there are certainly numerous benefits to doing so, separate accounts don’t mean that your money is legally separate. For a clear idea of what it means to have separate bank accounts, let’s look at the advantages they do and don’t provide, along with potential disadvantages.  

What Separate Accounts CAN Do

Keeping separate accounts means that you get plenty of benefits, such as retaining a sense of autonomy and independence. Other advantages include: 

Helps Prevent Disagreements Over Spending

Even if you share certain interests, it’s possible that you and your spouse don’t share similar spending habits. Maybe you wish they weren’t so stingy, or maybe they would like if you were a bit more conscious about where you spend money. This can lead to disagreements when you or your spouse spend money on personal purchases.  By keeping finances separate, you prevent disagreements and subsequent resentment from brewing. 

Give You Access To Cash During a Divorce

If your spouse decides to empty your shared account or lock you out of the account during a divorce, having a separate account gives you access to cash for expenses like childcare and utility bills. This eliminates the need to go to court and get orders to pay for common expenses. 

Keep Pre-Marital Debts and Savings Separate

As mentioned above, more and more people are entering marriage with savings and/or debts. Once you and your spouse merge your funds, you have joint ownership over each other’s money. This could result in your creditors garnishing your spouse’s money. Not to mention, it can also lead to the comingling of pre-marital savings, which can be difficult to reclaim during a divorce. 

Separate Accounts, Financial Infidelity, and Divorce  

Statistics show that divorce due to infidelity is a major reason why couples are separating. Even though cheating and divorce often come up together, there are other significant reasons as well, such as financial infidelity. It refers to when one or both spouses aren’t transparent about how much money they make, spend, or have saved up. While many couples nowadays have separate accounts, keeping finances separate and not having discussions about money could be a sign of financial infidelity. Some individuals may have secret accounts to hide money from their spouses and make transactions without their knowledge. 

Even if you keep separate accounts, it’s important to have regular discussions regarding finances or even keep a joint account for shared expenses. 

Separate Accounts Can’t Protect Your Money 

In most states, assets and debt acquired during marriage are regarded as community property. This means they’re jointly owned by both spouses, even if just one person’s name is on the deed, title, or account. Most couples assume that your separate property would typically include a bank account they opened before they got married. However, keeping separate accounts isn’t enough to provide the legal protection you’re looking for. 


Pre-marital savings in your separate accounts become community property because of cominglingcomingling. Think of it this way: any money you earn during your marriage becomes community property. When you deposit these funds into your account, it becomes difficult or even impossible to figure out which of the funds count as separate property. Consequently, ‘comingledcomingled funds’ are subject to division. 

Marital Property

While the above-mentioned explanation applies to savings, it doesn’t mean that funds kept in a separate account after marriage won’t be subject to distribution. Even if the account has your name and your spouse’s money never comingled with your funds, there’s no guarantee that you can keep the money in the account. 

In the US, nine states operate under community property laws, including Nevada. As per community property laws, money in separate accounts is marital property. That means any property, such as real estate, vehicles, or money, belongs to both spouses.  

The rest of the country, however, follows equitable distribution laws, where property acquired by a spouse during the marriage belongs to them. But equitable distribution is far from simple – things can get complicated during a contested divorce. That’s because attorneys may argue that certain property should be regarded as marital property, thereby subject to equal division.  

When Are Separate Accounts Considered Separate Property 

Regardless of the state you’re based in, your spouse’s attorney may be able to argue that the funds in separate accounts are considered marital property. However, there are some cases in which courts see separate accounts as legally separate. For instance, if you don’t deposit any money earned during the marriage into the account, it can be considered separate. 

If you deposit any financial gifts or inheritance bearing both spouses’ names, the funds are considered commingled. To keep this money separate, the inheritance or gifts must mention the account holder’s name.  

What You Should Do To Protect Your Money

So, if keeping your funds in a separate account isn’t the solution to protecting your money during a divorce, what is? Most divorce lawyers argue that the best way to protect your assets is to get a prenuptial agreement. 

It’s a legally binding agreement stating that any assets you acquire throughout your marriage belong to you. It’s recommended that you consult with an expert family law attorney to discuss this option. An added benefit of signing a prenuptial agreement is that it encourages you to discuss finances with your spouse. 

If you’re going through a separation and are unsure of how to divide money into divorce separate bank accounts, it’s recommended to consult an expert divorce lawyer.

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