It’s common for couples to open a joint bank account after marrying. After all, much of the expenses are shared, so it makes sense to pool resources.

That begs an uncomfortable question: what happens to that account, and the money in it, during a divorce?

It’s not always as simple as withdrawing your own funds and heading your separate ways. The legal implications must be considered.

Survey your personal situation and act accordingly

For some people, abusive or controlling behavior is a risk, and they may find their spouse drained the account, leaving them financially vulnerable. Women are particularly affected by post-divorce financial difficulties, since in many marriages, men are still either the sole earner or earn more income overall.

Some married couples also have separate accounts maintained by one spouse, but which contain shared assets.

These are all factors to consider when deciding what to do with the account – how much to withdraw, when to close it, and whether other assets will factor into your share of the joint finances.

Plan your moves and don’t rush into action

Generally, marriage entitles both spouses to 50% of the joint assets. However, account balances can appear inflated at different points in time, such as prior to a large monthly payment. Unless it’s an emergency, it may be best not to withdraw the full half of your funds immediately.

One option is putting a freeze on the account. This can help mitigate issues stemming from a vindictive or controlling spouse, and create a more neutral playing field.

If you don’t already have one, open your own separate account before taking any action to provide a receptacle for your share of the joint funds to land.

Look ahead and prepare your own financial future

Know that if your spouse does unilaterally withdraw all of the funds, the court will likely order them to pay it back. However, this process can be very slow, so it’s important to plan ahead financially if you are the one planning to file for divorce.