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They've Looted the Bank Account!

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When one spouse excludes another from joint assets, an action in partition may be necessary in addition to divorce proceedings.

By Attorney Nichole A. Collins, Family Law Division Leader, Harrisburg, PA

I recently had a client that came to me in tears.  She was thrown into a divorce by her husband.  He left her.  But, before leaving for good, he took all the money from the joint checking and savings account and a U-Haul full of the parties' personalty from the house.  She was devastated and broke.  The answer- an action in partition.

When one spouse excludes the other from the use and enjoyment by misappropriating it to his or her own use, all property held by the entireties (both parties), not merely the unit that has been improperly appropriated, becomes subject to partition because the injured party is not required to wait until other entireties property is improperly diverted before suing to protect his or her interest in it.  In other words, if one party takes the joint account funds, assets, or other personalty (stocks, securities), the other party can sue to get their half or all of it back.  For purposes of determining whether a spouse's appropriation of entireties property permits partition of all entireties property, the test is whether the appropriation was of mutual benefit to the parties or whether it constituted wrongful exclusion of the nonappropriating party. 

If you have questions about equitable distribution in divorce proceedings or other questions relating to personal property or real estate, contact the experienced team at Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC

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