Who Took the Money in the Cookie Jar?

Many couples keep cash savings on hand for an emergency. Cash may be stored in a cookie jar, under the mattress, safe deposit box, or some other place for safekeeping. Any marital monies that the parties have at date of separation are subject to accounting in the distribution of the parties’ marital property. Problems can arise when couples separate and there are disagreements as to how much money was in the proverbial cookie jar and which party took it.

If the party who took the cash savings denies responsibility, it can be difficult to prove the money even existed. Financial account statements may be helpful in showing cash withdrawals, but in most cases there is little tangible evidence to establish how much cash was on hand as of the date of the parties’ separation – or to prove which party took it. As such, it becomes one party’s word against the other, and the court must determine which party has credibility. The court cannot credit one party with having received the money unless there is stipulation or evidence presented as to its existence and value. However, this does not mean that a party may conceal money or other assets without consequence. The court can consider a spouse’s financial misconduct, e.g., concealing marital assets, as a factor that would warrant an unequal distribution of the marital estate in favor of the other spouse.

If you and your spouse are separating, or have separated, your attorney can advise you whether it is appropriate for you to take possession of any cash or other assets. If you have concerns that your spouse may attempt to conceal, waste, transfer, or dispose of any marital assets, then your attorney may be able to obtain an emergency restraining order to prevent your spouse from legally taking such actions.

This article is for information purposes only and is not to be considered or substituted as legal advice. The information in this article is based on North Carolina state laws in effect at the time of posting.

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