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If you and your spouse are at the end of your relationship, one of the first things that you need to attend to is your joint bank account.

While it may seem a little cold or calculating to be thinking of finances at this time, it's an unfortunate necessity. The only way to protect yourself financially is to get that account closed. Otherwise, your spouse can legally drain the account. If he or she overdrafts it, you're also on the hook -- and not just for half. Both people listed on a shared account are considered liable for the entire debt if it goes into the red. The bank does not care who actually incurred the debt.

What steps should you take to close the account?

1. First, cancel any direct deposits, including your paycheck. You don't want to close the account until those are re-routed. Also, make certain that if you have automatic withdrawals coming out to pay any bills that those are cancelled as well. Make a list of all of them and make sure that they're changed so that you don't inadvertently bounce a payment.

2. Second, go to the bank in person to close your accounts. Take your identification with you, because you'll need it -- even if the bank tellers know you. Under the law, they have to verify your information when you close an account.

3. Third, divide the money. You don't want to be accused of playing unfair with money when it comes time to appear in court -- that would reflect badly in the eyes of the judge. Typically, half of the account should go to your spouse. Have the money that goes to your spouse put into a certified check.

4. Finally, make sure that you keep proof that you gave your spouse his or her share of the money. You'll need that down the line when it comes to the final division of your property and assets.


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