Close joint bank accounts when you divorce

On Behalf of | Apr 18, 2023 | Divorce |

Ending a marriage is the time to declare financial independence and separate your assets. Closing joint bank accounts is one of these important steps during divorce.

Both spouses must agree to end these accounts. They should first seek legal advice to ensure that they comply with New Jersey law and that they do not face legal and financial penalties.

Joint accounts

A joint bank account is held and owned by two people, typically spouses or people in a relationship. Both account holders may pay bills, make deposits and contribute to shared savings goals.

Both account holders also share financial responsibility and accountability. This can become complicated when couples divorce or end their relationship.

Open a new account first

There should be a new account in place before the joint account is closed. Your share of joint account assets can be transferred to the new account, and it may be used for payments and deposits.

Dividing assets

Account holders should determine how its assets are allocated when they end their account. Funds may be marital property or separate property that was earned before marriage or received as a gift or inheritance.

New Jersey law governs the division of marital assets. Before dividing joint accounts, it is important to determine the value of the marital estate’s assets and debts.

If one spouse ends the account without the other spouse’s agreement, they may owe the marital estate a credit for at least 50% of the balance that was removed. There may also be other legal penalties.

Automatic payments

Automatic payments and deposits are often forgotten because these occur over time. When ending these accounts, look for automated transactions that include:

  • Paying regular bills such as the Internet and utilities
  • Subscription payments
  • Mortgage, vehicle, credit card and other loan payments
  • Automatic transfers into savings accounts
  • Repeated direct deposits


A joint account is not closed when it reaches zero balance. Financial institutions can still charge interest or fees even if the account is unused.

Banks have requirements on whether closing must be together, in-person or on-line. Coordinated logging may be required for online accounts.

Confirm that the account is at zero balance before closing it. Funds may have to be transferred into another account to avoid fees.

A spouse may also remove themselves from a joint account without closing it. Both spouses, however, must agree to changes in its ownership.