For many married couples, it’s common to have shared bank accounts where a spouse deposits his or her income and then use those accounts to pay household bills.  But when divorce is on the horizon, many separating couples might start to wonder if, and when, is the right time to divert their direct deposit income to a separate bank account.  This decision also comes with practical considerations, such as making sure that if they do divert, there will be enough money left in the shared accounts for bills on auto-payments, who would be responsible for continuing to pay for joint expenses, and from where those payments will be made.  

Generally, under California community property laws, assets accumulated during marriage are divided equally.  This would imply that those shared bank accounts would be divided equally, but a portion of those funds may have been income that you earned after separation, commingled with money earned during the marriage.  The math can then get even messier when some, or all those funds, get used on community expenses, such as household bills or a mortgage payment, many months after separation when there are no orders clarifying who is responsible for what bills.  

While California law allows for various types of reimbursements and credits in scenarios such as these, the burden lies with the party who is seeking that reimbursement or credit.  This means that if you are commingling your post-separation income, and you want some of that back when it comes time to divide the account, you bear the burden to sufficiently demonstrate where every dollar came from and where it went.  It’s important to have an experienced family law attorney with financial experience, such as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, who understands how to best handle these types of reimbursements and credits and can advise you on how to begin the separation of finances in a way that protects your future.

Jennifer Lee, Esq., is an attorney and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® with the Schaffer Family Law Group, a full-service divorce, mediation, and family law firm known for effective legal representation and compassionate client service. For more information, please visit