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I can’t afford a good lawyer because he cleaned out our accounts!

People who are in the process of getting divorced have all kinds of ways to try and get the upper hand. Sometimes, that means one of the spouses moves the marital money out of joint accounts, so that the other party can’t access it. If that happens to you, you have options.

Fortunately, most lawyers know that spouses sometimes clean out the accounts. This shouldn’t deter a good lawyer from wanting to represent you. There are ways that your lawyer can help you find marital assets and ask the court for justice.

Ask the court to freeze assets

The first thing that might help you is to ask the court to freeze assets. This means to ask the court to order that neither party dissipate or transfer assets. That means that your spouse can’t spend through your finances quickly or transfer all of the money to friends or relatives. If your ex ignores the order and moves money anyways, the court can punish them by awarding the amounts to you.

Motion for attorney fees

In most cases, you can ask the court to order your ex to pay your attorney fees. This is usually based on your need and your ex’s ability to pay. If your spouse moved the money out of the accounts, you can likely demonstrate that they have an ability to pay your attorney fees. Most attorneys are sympathetic when a spouse moves money out of an account, and they’re often willing to work with you in order to collect their fee from the joint accounts.

To ask for attorney fees, you need to bring a motion to the court. This means filing formal court papers. The paperwork should cite the relevant laws or court rules that allow someone in your situation to collect attorney fees. It should also detail what your spouse did in order to prevent your access to joint funds.

Motion for temporary spousal support

You don’t have to wait for the final divorce judgment in order to seek support from your ex. If you’re dependent on your spouse during the marriage, the court may order your ex to support you while the divorce pends in court. This can mean paying temporary alimony or spousal support. You may be able to use these funds to pay fees to your attorney.

Finding the money

Your attorney can help you take steps to find where your ex moved the money. You can use a deposition or written questions called interrogatories in order to make your ex answer questions under oath. Your attorney can also issue subpoenas to financial institutions to follow transfers of money and deposits. This process is called discovery.

Can they keep the money by moving it?

Your ex might think that they can keep the money if they move it right before or shortly after they file for divorce. This isn’t the case. In fact, the court likely isn’t going to be pleased to hear that your ex moved the money where you can’t access it.

In a divorce, the court divides marital assets equitably. Usually, an asset is a marital asset when it’s earned during the marriage. Absent a prenuptial agreement, there’s nothing that a spouse can do in order to make a marital asset non-marital.

The court is going to look at all of the assets, look at the evidence and make an equitable distribution. Even if your ex tries to hide assets, the right attorney isn’t going to be deterred. They can help you find marital assets and ask the court to award you an equitable share of marital property that includes your attorney fees.