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Can my spouse freeze assets during divorce in North Carolina?

Marriage means sharing income, housing and other personal resources. Couples combine their bank accounts and live in the same house, in most cases. Combined financial resources are a major feature of most marriages. Couples have access to and control over income earned by each other and accounts in one another’s names.

Those shared accounts and living arrangements will unfortunately make divorce more challenging for a family than it might otherwise be. The process of separating financial resources and obligations is often one of the most frustrating and time-consuming aspects of divorce in North Carolina.

Some people find themselves suddenly struggling financially because they don’t have any cash or independent credit card accounts while they are also in need of a new place to stay. If you’re facing this significant challenge, you may be wondering whether you need to worry about your spouse freezing mutual accounts during your divorce.

Freezing shared accounts is quite common

With the exception of uncontested divorces where couples have already reached very specific settlements, it is common practice to temporarily freeze marital resources in the early stages of divorce proceedings. The party filing will give the courts a list of shared accounts, including checking accounts and credit cards. The banks will freeze those accounts until the divorce moves forward.

Doing so can prevent abuses like dissipation and outright theft, as well as other forms of financial misconduct potentially motivated by someone’s anger about the divorce. Neither spouse will be able to sell stocks, take money out of a shared retirement account or continue using joint credit cards in most cases.

Such efforts will reduce the risk of financial losses but can create temporary hardship for the people divorcing. The good news is that the modern financial world moves quickly, and someone who was shocked by account freeze-outs can start setting up their own accounts in a matter of hours.

A freeze will potentially simplify property division later

By preventing spite shopping and other financial misconduct, account freezes in the early stages of divorce can actually make the whole process smoother and simpler. While it may be a challenge initially, especially for those who didn’t anticipate the divorce, the inability to use marital resources will actually benefit most divorcing couples. That is, unless the freezing is one-sided. Under these circumstances, the spouse who has been frozen out needs to connect with an attorney right away.

Understanding what to expect will help those trying to handle the financial challenges in the early days of a North Carolina divorce. It bears repeating though that if efforts to freeze marital resources are one-sided, the spouse who is being frozen out needs to seek legal guidance immediately.