You cannot make this stuff up: the FBI is looking for “The Chameleon Beard Bandit,”1 a bank robber who has robbed six banks, including two in Virginia, using the clever ruse of changing the color of his beard. If you feel your wife (bearded or not — we’re not judging) has essentially robbed you by cleaning out your bank accounts, it may not be a matter for the FBI. It is, though, a matter for your family lawyer.
Is it Legal to Take the Money?
You go into your local, (unrobbed) Virginia bank and sadly discover your wife has cleaned out your account (not in a good way, like dusted and vacuumed). You are stunned. You are still married to her; why would she do this terrible thing?
You can believe she moved it safely elsewhere; sure, believe that if you wish. Perhaps you bought a few too many lottery tickets and she worried you’d squander your joint savings on more tickets.
Or, as the wife claimed in a story at Market Watch, she may say she put it into a high-interest earning account — only she put it in an individual account — hers.
She done you wrong! Unfortunately for her, though, she does not have carte blanche to take your last penny from a jointly owned account, not in Virginia, not anywhere.
Is Virginia a Community Property State?
Nine of our 50 states are community property states, according to Investopedia, and Virginia is not among them. Community property states allow joint accounts to be shared 50-50, no matter the circumstances. In Virginia, marital property comes in three flavors:
- Separate property — You owned it before the marriage
- Marital property — You both contributed it to the marriage
- Hybrid property — From separate property, you both derived tangible benefits in the marriage
This is all spelled out in Virginia Code, under § 20-107.3. This division of assets applies to tangible goods, real estate, and intellectual property like royalties from inventions and creative works. It applies also to liquid assets like retirement funds, savings and checking accounts, Certificates of Deposits, etc.
Your wife cannot reasonably claim more than her “equitable” share of any joint account. Imagine you both have a $100,000 joint savings account. She has contributed to it through payroll deductions at a rate of $1,000 for every $3,000 you contributed through your own job. She cleans it out, all $100,000.
Your family law attorney will have no trouble demonstrating to the court (using statements and your own payroll deduction paperwork) that she was entitled to no more than $25,000 of the account, since her contribution was only a quarter of the account’s value.
While you can try to reason with her, to either add your name to whatever account she transferred your joint funds into or to move it back into your existing account, you may need to get a lawyer.
No Virginia judge will sit idly by and approve of what she has done, but to get to the judge, you need to get to a lawyer, who will defend your rights against this unlawful taking. You will incur expenses to take your wife to court (or threaten to take her to court), but this is your chance to get your money back.
Is Divorce in the Air?
If she pulled this swindle just before divorcing you, she is compounding her error. The marital assets (remember, this only works when she cleans out joint accounts) she could have had an equitable stake in are now all in her name alone, so she appears to have far greater assets than you.
Either way, she’s actually harming herself for the “reward” of temporarily inconveniencing you. She cannot win or keep all the money, divorce or not.
This offers cold comfort to you if she truly has cleaned out the joint accounts and you have bills to pay. You may get back your share of all the money through divorce proceedings, but that does not help with rent or mortgage payments, utility bills or car payments.
Preventing Her from Taking Money from Bank Accounts
Your best safeguard against the sudden loss of all your money is to monitor your joint accounts carefully, review your bank’s policies regarding spousal access to individual accounts, and to consider separate individual accounts for each of you, with a smaller joint account for paying bills.
With a joint account, you can each transfer money into it on an “equitable” basis and track who is contributing what, so that, should you need to dissolve the joint account due to divorce, you know who gets what in the property settlement agreement.
Call the Only Family Law Firm in Virginia Protecting Men Exclusively
If you do see the Chameleon Beard Bandit (and you are fairly sure he is not your wife ) you can earn up to $10,000 for information. If, on the other hand, you simply need to deal with your wife’s sticky fingers, contact a trusted family law attorney.
Your call to The Firm For Men at 757-383-9184 could be priceless. Connect with a family law attorney to find out how you can defend your rights as a Virginia man, protect your assets, and find justice.