The Moneyologist: My wife transferred $130,000 from our joint bank account into a CD in her name only

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Dear Moneyologist,

Both my wife and I recently lost our jobs and both received payouts for about $40,000 each. I lost my job six months before. We placed my check in our joint bank account and continued to pay our normal monthly bills. We also sold a home and walked away with about $90,000. My wife took the $90,000 and her $40,000 without my knowledge and transferred it to an account with only her name attached.

‘I informed my wife that she had a month to transfer the funds back into our joint account or add my name to the account with the transferred funds.’

Malcolm

She takes what’s required for bills monthly and transfers that amount to our joint account to pay bills. I have since found another position and my check is deposited into our joint account. I informed my wife that she had a month to transfer the funds back into our joint account or add my name to the account with the transferred funds.

She has informed me that she placed $100,000 into a certificate of deposit that brings in $1,000 every two months and could not take it out for at least six months. I am not that worried about the funds. I just cannot get over that fact that she did this and has not responded to my request. Now I am also getting concerned about the funds. Should I be?

Malcolm

Dear Malcolm,

Your wife has had one major life change. It looks like she might be planning another.

The “what’s yours is ours and what’s mine is mine” mantra has never seemed more apt. And it usually suggests at least one person in a marriage is not invested in it all the way. Finance and romance go hand-in-hand in marriage, and your wife has already withdrawn one of those things from your partnership. The returns she claims on the CD are three times the average rate. That’s a CD everyone would want to put their money into or, more likely, a fictional rate of return.s.

I don’t see a court or judge in the country allowing your wife to keep this money in the event that you divorced. In community property states, this money is considered marital property.

The Moneyologist

She has taken action. Now, so can you. Document all communications, speak to a lawyer about any other steps you should take, including talking to your bank reviewing the rules governing how you can withdraw large sums of money and the steps you would take to (a) freeze your wife’s accounts and (b) retrieve the money.

Read: My mother-in-law is being bled dry by her incarcerated brother

The good news: I don’t see a court or judge in the country allowing your wife to keep this money in the event that you divorced. In community property states, this money is considered marital property. In other states, a divorce court would still look unkindly on your wife transferring your joint assets into an account in her name only.

Also see: Two ‘controlling’ fathers unhappy with their children speak out

There are logistical aspects to your dilemma too. Do you confront your wife and demand she return the money? Do you ask her for the documentation for these CDs and ask why they are not in your joint names? Of course, this could trigger a conversation you are less willing to have about why she did this and what it means for your marriage. But you need to establish the location of this money before it’s too late.

I’m reminded of this letter where a stepmother sold the family home for $1 million without telling her step-children, bought a new home for $500,000 and kept the difference. Her stepchildren could sue, of course, but once the house was sold (or, in this case, the money has been withdrawn) it’s far more difficult and expensive to get it back.

Whether it’s a stolen home, altered will or just articles of clothing, once they’ve left the building, bank or wardrobe, they’re always harder to get back.

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