Does keeping your bank accounts separate matter in divorce?

by | Dec 13, 2019 | prenuptial agreements

As Millennials are taking over the workforce, they’re rewriting many societal norms. They’re fast replacing Boomers as the dominant age group. They’re shopping online, retiring brick and mortar retailers, renting longer, buying fewer homes, marrying later, and getting fewer divorces.

Millennial behaviors often break with traditions set by previous generations. Theirs is the first generation to come of age with smartphones and ubiquitous internet. They’ve struggled with student debt and divorced parents. And, they’re changing the world in many ways—both financially and socially. Among these changes is the fact that married Millennials often keep their bank accounts separate.

What do separate bank accounts mean for Illinois couples?

CNBC recently looked into the Millennials’ increased use of separate accounts. It found that because so many Millennial couples both work—and because many of them were children of divorce—they are often reluctant to combine their money into joint accounts.

The article offered two main reasons Millennials might be keeping their funds separate:

  • Apps make it easy for couples to share money instantly when they wish
  • Couples may wish to avoid complicating their finances in case they get divorced

No one enters marriage with a plan to get divorced, but Millennials have grown up with divorce often enough to realize it’s a possibility. CNBC suggested they might be keeping their funds separate to make property division easier in case they get divorced.

However, property division isn’t quite that simple. Even in equitable division states like Illinois, separate bank accounts may still become marital property. Even if the title to the house is in just one spouse’s name, it could be considered marital property. Similarly, separate bank accounts might become marital property in the face of shared financial pressures.

Millennials who hope their separate bank accounts might be viewed as separate property could be disappointed.

Is there a better way to identify separate property?

When couples leave the process to the court, the court will review many factors. It will aim to divide things fairly, but “fairly” doesn’t always mean “equally.” The process can get heated, and it is heavily influenced by the ways attorneys, experts portray the marital estate.

Fortunately, couples can use prenuptial and postnuptial agreements to exclude some items from the marital estate. This can lead to greater certainty about individual property. In many cases, the act of writing these contracts has forced couples to address their financial concerns. Even if you don’t get divorced, airing and resolving these concerns may defuse the conflicts they could otherwise spark.

If you and your partner are looking for a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, contact a trusted family attorney today.