Separation and divorce
Joint accounts: What are your rights if you break up?
Joint accounts can be useful to share common expenses when you’re a couple. If you break up, however, it’s important to know your rights to protect the money in the account or recover money that’s been withdrawn.
What can you do with a joint account if you break up?
When you separate, you have to decide whether you’ll close the joint account or keep it active. Some people prefer to close it quickly to prevent their ex from withdrawing money without their consent. Others prefer to keep the account active for the first few months after their separation to manage some joint expenses that still have to be covered, such as children’s or household expenses.
Keeping the account active
If you decide to keep the account active, bear in mind that either of you can withdraw money whenever you want, unless the terms and conditions of your joint account provide otherwise. The financial institution will not monitor any withdrawals your ex makes, even if it was notified of your separation.
Closing the account
If you decide to close the joint account, contact your financial institution to find out how, because each institution can have its own procedures to close an account. Some institutions could require both you and your ex to be at the branch in person, while others could allow you to close it alone or remotely.
You should also make sure that deposits made directly to your joint account are redirected to another account.
How is the money divided when you close a joint account?
Unless you’ve agreed otherwise, the money held in your joint account must be split equally between you and your ex, regardless of the amount you each contributed.
You are also both liable to the financial institution for any debts attached to the account such as a line of credit or insufficient funds charges.
What to do if your ex has already withdrawn money from the account without your consent?
If your ex has withdrawn money from the joint account without your consent or even emptied it completely, you can take legal steps and eventually apply to a court to claim your share.
If you’re married, you can add this claim to your application for divorce.
If you’re de facto partners, you can add this claim to the other applications concerning your separation. If it’s your only application, you need to prepare an “Originating Application” to file at the courthouse. The court you need to apply to depends on the amount claimed.
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The information presented on this page is not a legal opinion or legal advice. This page explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. To obtain a legal opinion or legal advice on your personal situation, consult a legal professional.
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