How To Freeze Joint Assets In A Divorce

4 February 2015
 Categories: , Blog

The process of freezing assets in a divorce refers to a legal procedure in which the presiding judge uses a court order to "restrain" any of the couple's marital assets. What this means is that neither spouse will be allowed to sell, trade, mortgage or in any way use these joint marital assets. Each state has its own idea of what constitutes a marital asset, but in general, jointly held money and property, pensions, and retirement plans are all viewed as marital assets.

During the divorce, these assets can be frozen, should it be determined that the estate is at some risk. For this to happen, the judge has to believe that the marital estate will be seriously (and perhaps irreparably) harmed if he or she fails to freeze these assets. For instance, the judge may decide that one of the parties might hide, squander or waste marital assets prior to the completion of the divorce. If you want to freeze marital assets in your divorce, you will have to do the following.

Step 1. File a Temporary Restraining Order with the court that will be hearing the divorce (this is usually the family law court). This can be rather difficult if you have no experience in such things. The documents can be obtained from the court itself, or you may be able to download them from a government website. A better alternative might be to hire an experienced divorce attorney who can assist you with preparing any necessary documents. Once this restraining order is in force, all marital assets will be frozen until the divorce is finalized.

Step 2. Either you or your lawyer must ensure that your spouse or his or her lawyer (if there is one) is properly served with a copy of the Temporary Restraining Order that was filed with the court. This must be done in accordance with the rules of your particular state. In some cases, this will mean using a process server or a County Sheriff to deliver it. In others, you can do it via certified mail. Make sure the court gets proof that your spouse was served.

Step 3. Send copies of this court order to the administrator or custodian of each of the frozen assets in order to inform them that the asset has been frozen and that it cannot be sold or used in any way. For example, if a financing company has the title to a boat you jointly own, you will need to make sure that this financing company receives a copy of the order.