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Can My Spouse Spend Our Assets While Our Divorce Is In Progress?

A common concern in Ohio divorce cases is that one party will spend, give away or otherwise dispose of marital property before it can be divided. Thankfully, when a divorce is filed the court will preemptively issue an administrative temporary restraining order that bars both spouses from taking any such actions.

Administrative Temporary Restraining Orders In Divorce

Each county in Ohio has its own set of rules regarding divorce restraining orders. However, most have similar features.

In Harrison County, the Court of Domestic Relations Local Rules indicate that a restraining order goes into effect immediately when an action for divorce is filed. The plaintiff is considered served with the restraining order upon filing the divorce complaint. The defendant will be served along with the summons.

The divorce restraining order typically prevents both spouses from:

  • Selling or giving away property
  • Making major purchases or incurring debt
  • Cashing in or withdrawing from retirement accounts, investment accounts and other accounts

Both spouses are typically allowed to spend and make financial decisions that are in line with those made during the course of the marriage. The goal of an administrative temporary restraining order is to maintain the status quo until the divorce is over.

That means you or your spouse may not sell the family home or other real estate holdings such as rental property, move money from shared accounts to individual accounts, gift a car or another major item to a friend, or make other similar moves not in keeping with how money was handled in the marriage.

What If My Spouse Violates The Order? Or Accuses Me Of Violating The Order?

Having a restraining order in place is one thing. Ensuring that it is followed is something else. After all, the order does not freeze bank accounts or other assets, not in the sense that accounts are frozen when a bank suspects fraud. The accounts may still be used, since both parties obviously still need to buy groceries and pay bills, so you might be worried that your spouse will violate the order.

Violating a court order, however, is a serious matter that comes with its own set of repercussions. Further, during the divorce, there is a process called discovery in which information is exchanged between parties. This includes financial information, a review of which often makes it very clear if actions were taken that violate the order. If violations are discovered, they may impact how property is divided in order to ensure an equitable outcome. Sometimes there is a mistake. Other times, on party might have intentionally tried to hide assets. In severe cases, these intentional attempts may even be considered divorce fraud.

Perhaps you are worried that you will be accused of violating the divorce restraining order. This is a particular concern for those who make a living investing, buying and selling. This can be challenging, but ties into the caveat that transactions may still continue that are aligned with those during the marriage. You should not have to stop doing the work you do just because of the divorce.

Ultimately, when a divorce involves substantial or complex assets, the assistance of an experienced attorney is invaluable for navigating how marital assets are protected and managed during a divorce.