When a spouse is served with a summons for divorce, attached to the summons is a document titled “Notice of Automatic Orders.” This notice has the legal effect of a court order prohibiting a party from accessing any marital property and using it for any other purpose than is necessary for the ordinary course of business or meeting day-to-day needs. Cleaning out a joint bank account for unnecessary reason would be considered a “dissipation of marital assets.” The party who removed these funds would be ordered to replace them and/or give the other party a credit as part of any final settlement. If legal steps are required to force the offending spouse to rectify the loss, they offending spouse would be responsible for the other party's attorney fees.
If a spouse raids a joint bank account for extramarital purposes before a divorce action is begun wasteful dissipation of marital assets may be assumed, and the spouse would likely be held responsible for replacing this money at divorce time. For example, if one spouse spends money on a paramour, such as jewelry or vacations prior to divorce, those funds would be a credit to the other spouse at the time of divorce.