With so many different banking options today, many people have more than one bank account. Many couples divide accounts into mine, yours, and ours. However, if you find your spouse has a secret bank account that you never knew about, you might wonder what this means for your relationship. Below, we dive into this complex issue.
How To Find Out If My Spouse Has A Secret Bank Account
The first step to finding out if your husband or wife has a secret bank account is to look for evidence of one. This evidence may include:
- Paper trail – You may start to notice new mail that has the name of a banking institution with which you have not previously done business addressed in your spouse’s name. Canceled checks may show withdrawals or deposits going into another account. Your spouse’s direct deposit from work may be split up and go to multiple accounts.
- Tax records – If the account is interest-bearing, your spouse may have received a 1099 form and may have reported the interest on your tax returns.
- Online activity – Today, people can open bank accounts online without ever having to involve a brick and mortar establishment. If you share a device with your spouse, you can check if your spouse has been searching for these banks or if there is a bookmark or favorite for one of them. You may also be able to review the browsing history for any other suspicious activity.
- Missing funds – Another indication of your spouse’s secret bank account is that funds are missing. Your spouse may have withdrawn a large amount of money from your joint account. Their take-home pay from work may have gotten less over the last few months if they are funneling money to their secret bank account.
What Does It Mean If My Spouse Has A Secret Account?
If your husband or wife has a secret bank account, this may not mean anything. Your spouse might have opened up the account a long time ago and just forgot about it. They might have signed up for a promotion and then had no further involvement in the account. It might not be a “secret” at all and just an oversight.
However, if your spouse has a secret bank account that they have been making deposits to regularly and has been actively trying to hide it from you, this can mean much more. It can make you question what a secret bank account means for your marriage or whether your spouse is hiding something else that the account is funding, such as a gambling problem, hidden debt, an affair, or a drug problem.
Even if the account is not facilitating other deceptive behavior in your marriage, it still does not bode well for a healthy marriage. Financial infidelity may be at play in your marriage, which occurs when you or your spouse lie about money when you have combined finances. This can erode trust in your marriage and lead to deeper problems. In fact, 41% of Gen Xers and 29% of Baby Boomers report that they ended their marriage because of disagreements surrounding money. Additionally, if you’re arguing about money early in your relationship, this could be an early indicator that you will wind up divorced.
Is A ‘What If’ Fund Okay?
If you have stumbled across your wife’s secret bank account, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Many women have a “what if” fund just in case. It is all too common for a woman who has not been involved in the finances to suddenly find herself financially ruined or dependent on others’ goodwill when her husband suddenly announces he wants a divorce. Your wife might squirrel away some funds in her own interest of self-preservation.
Additionally, your wife may keep a separate bank account for general emergencies or unexpected expenses. If you’re not too good at money management, it may make your wife feel more secure knowing that there are extra funds in reserve in case you need them.
There is nothing inherently wrong with having savings or emergency funds. It can actually be a good form of financial management. The problem lies in whether your spouse is being deceptive about it.
How To Discuss It
If you have stumbled across your spouse’s secret bank account, you might be tempted to try to catch your spouse in a lie or back them into a corner. However, having an open and honest conversation about the secret bank account and the underlying financial matters in your marriage is the best approach.
Some ways to improve your marital financial health include:
- Discussing all bank accounts, assets, forms of income, and debts
- Not accusing each other of misconduct but instead gathering the facts
- Discussing priorities for money and shared goals
- Creating monthly budgets together
- Having both spouses being actively involved in the finances, including reconciling bank accounts, understanding your investment strategy, and setting money goals
- Being transparent about how you spend money
- Making a plan to pay off debt together
- Identifying underlying problems that led to deceptive practices, such as mental health problems or a spending addiction
- Involving a third party such as a financial counselor to help mediate
Committing to a financial plan together can do wonders to help keep your marriage healthy.
Finding A Secret Account During Divorce
During the divorce process, you may learn things about your spouse you never considered, like that your spouse has a secret bank account. Uncovering this information may be vital to ensuring you get a fair divorce settlement. Here are some of the key things to keep in mind during the divorce process.
Most property that you obtain during your marriage is considered marital property. Unless your spouse had the funds before your marriage or received them as a gift or inheritance during your marriage, the funds are probably marital property. However, if your spouse’s separate property was mixed together with your marital property, this is called commingling, which can transform the separate property into marital property that is divided during the divorce process.
Many spouses have joint bank accounts with each other. The general rule for joint accounts is that each account owner has a full interest in all of the account funds. This may mean that your spouse may be able to withdraw most or all of the funds from the account without your permission.
Divorce Restraining Orders
Many states have divorce orders that apply in cases automatically or upon request of one of the parties. These orders help prevent spouses from taking certain actions that may cause harm to the marital estate These orders commonly instruct neither spouse to:
- Incur additional debt
- Sell, give away, or otherwise dispose of marital property
- Cancel accounts, utilities, insurance policies, or health plans
- Commit unnecessary spending
- Transfer funds
Depending on the wording of the restraining order, you may not be able to open a new account, close an existing one, or transfer funds out of the account without your spouse’s permission.
Financial Disclosures and Affidavits
Many states require spouses to complete various financial disclosures. While divorce is certainly an emotional process, it is also one that has many financial and legal implications. Therefore, spouses may have to provide clear and complete information regarding:
These disclosures may be necessary before the court orders the divorce. The spouses may have to sign affidavits that state that they have provided accurate and truthful information. Unknown bank accounts may become known through the completion of these documents. If a spouse says that htey have provided all relevant information but the court later finds that they intentionally withheld information, they may be subject to penalties and may even lose assets they were trying to hide.
A secret bank account in a divorce may be revealed through the discovery process. Generally, a spouse may be entitled to part of a secret bank account during the divorce process. The account may be subject to division during the divorce, so spouses will have the incentive to uncover all marital property.
During the discovery process, you may be able to command certain information through tools such as:
- Interrogatories – Interrogatories are a series of questions that one spouse asks the other spouse. The spouse may have to answer the questions under the penalty of perjury. Some states have standard interrogatories for divorce cases that will require spouses to disclose information about their finances.
- Requests for production – Requests for production ask the other spouse to provide certain documents and evidence. You can request that your spouse disclose all bank accounts in which they have an interest.
- Subpoenas – A subpoena can order someone to show up to testify or to provide requested information. You can send subpoenas to banks and other third parties to get information directly from them.
- Depositions – A deposition is a recorded interview with a party or witness. The person is sworn in and asked questions.
A family lawyer can help you with this process.