Can a husband sue his wife?
January 26, 2009 6:12 AM   Subscribe

Are there any circumstances in (UK) law that would allow a friend to 'sue' his wife for what he considers the money she stole from their joint account.

Long story much shorter.

Boy meets girl, gets married. Within 11 months she reveals (out of the blue) that she never loved him, not even on their wedding day.

Before getting married she convinced him that they should have a shared savings account, and a shared current account. She contributed nothing to savings, and little to he current account. She has spent over £70K during the marriage with no consultation with him.

Yes he's an idiot - he didnt check his statements/accounts at all. He had no reason to - he trusted her.

Yes she is an idiot - she has pissed this money up the wall. He now has a very long bank statement detailing exactly where all the money has gone.

Yes they are separating - for some reason, not divorcing - I dont know why - at this stage, he didnt divulge.

Yes he is lawyered up. He isnt, I have to say, a person of great judgment, and at the moment, utterly depressed and angry. I'm listening to him mostly, and I've told him to dump the village conveyancing solictor he told me is a "lovely sweet old lady" because he's being a fricking idiot and to find a rottweiler of a lawyer.

Is there a case here - as I think there might be - for some sort of conspiracy to defraud?

The amounts involved, and over the given time period suggests that this might have been premeditated.

The girl is young, immature, unpleasant, described by her 'friend' as a deeply unlikeable person and I have no doubt she knew exactly what she was doing.

Does he have a leg to stand on?
posted by daveyt to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like fraud to me. He most certainly needs to get a mean motherfucker of a lawyer, tho.
posted by notsnot at 6:40 AM on January 26, 2009

I'm afraid I don't think so. You can't steal from or defraud your own bank account, and that's what a joint account is.

The account is now closed, presumably?
posted by Phanx at 6:41 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd say not - by creating the joint account, the money is essentially "theirs" not his, despite any definition of who 'contributed' to the money that was in there. He explicitly allowed her access to the money when he added her name to the account. That she then spent it is just her using the joint account, no matter how unjustified her spending is to him.

It's quite possibly grounds for divorce, but I'm not sure that he can sue for "spending our money".

Crappy situation, I'm sorry for your friend. Nice guy finishing last here, that's for sure. A shared account doesn't need to be anything other than 'something we both put stuff into for our mutual needs' not necessarily 'I want access to all your money and all your accounts'.
posted by Brockles at 7:03 AM on January 26, 2009

Unless you can find a British attorney willing to give advice on AskMe based on the information you've provided, there's no way to answer this question. That seems unlikely to happen. Everyone so far is just guessing or expressing their feelings about what the law ought to say. Your friend needs to ask his lawyer or a better lawyer who is conversant in family law, finance, or possibly both.
posted by decathecting at 7:44 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Your friend is almost certainly SOL. Get a divorce as fast as possible, but I'm afraid that "You never loved me" is not an actionable tort. Neither is, as Brockles indicates, "Spending our money" actionable at either law or equity. Of course it was premeditated. Bitch is a gold-digger. But she got him to do all the correct legal things such that he has absolutely no legal recourse. When they got married and established a joint account, unless they signed some kind of pre-nup, all of his stuff became hers and vice versa.

Divorce-TMFA, but the money is gone.
posted by valkyryn at 7:47 AM on January 26, 2009

If there are joint assets worth £70k, I suppose he could try to grab them and sell them off (or return them if they're things recently bought) - but I don't suppose there are, or that your friend would be able grab them if there were.

To be honest, I doubt whether your friend is up for any kind of decisive action, or he would surely be going for divorce already.
posted by Phanx at 7:47 AM on January 26, 2009

I don't know about the letter of the law, but my wife was taking checks from my account. signing my name, then cashing them at our bank. This was NOT a joint account. I closed our joint account years earlier because of lack of trust. She also had memorized my debit card number and used that for some purchases. When we separated prior to divorce (duh!) I went to the bank and asked if I had any recourse. The response: close the account, cancel the card, and start a new one. The manager told me I essentially had NO recourse because when it's a spouse the assumption is that permission has been given and it's nearly impossible to prove otherwise.

So, in the case of a joint account, I don't see how there is any recourse at all. Money in a joint account is owned by both account holders.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 7:51 AM on January 26, 2009

Everyone so far is just guessing or expressing their feelings about what the law ought to say.

Well, I'm passing on what I remember from the experience of having had a joint account with my wife and then separating from her, though I was not, admittedly, £70k down on the deal .
posted by Phanx at 7:57 AM on January 26, 2009

Jointly and severally liable is unfortunately how it tends to work. Close all the joint accounts. I've been there :(
posted by grippycat at 8:00 AM on January 26, 2009

This is a question for a UK lawyer, perhaps a barrister.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:20 AM on January 26, 2009

I believe that in Scotland the default position is money in joint accounts belongs to who paid it in, unless there is evidence it was always intended to be shared. In the rest of the UK a husband and wife are presumed to have equal ownership of joint accounts. You don't say if there is anything to show for the money, he may have a claim on anything that could be argued to be bought for them as a couple. Anyway, this is not legal advice, your friend needs to see a solicitor.
posted by wilko at 10:54 AM on January 26, 2009


He needs to speak to a sensible, specialist family lawyer, which he will find via Resolution (formerly the Solicitors' Family Law Association).

But ...what would be the point of trying to recover the money from her through costly court proceedings if she's spent it?

I was a divorce lawyer for 15 years. As much as clients wanted revenge/their day in court, I would always point out to them that they might as well stand in the street burning £10 notes if the person they were suing didn't have a pot to piss in.

Good money after bad, etc.

Of course, I am always in favour of the poor lawyer earning a fee, but if your friend gets sensible advice he'll be told that it's likely a waste of time. A judge in a divorce case can take her conduct into account when dividing up the marital assets, but if she's had it away with his savings, there won't be any money to magic out of thin air to pay him back, on the basis of the information you've provided.
posted by essexjan at 11:35 AM on January 26, 2009

Oh, and the reason they're probably not divorcing yet is that you can't start a divorce in the UK until after you've been married for at least a year.
posted by essexjan at 11:36 AM on January 26, 2009

Excuse me, but are you actually threatening assault on this woman through your haha-just-kidding tags on this AskMeFi post? Not smart.

This woman may have been an awful gold-digger, but your friend is an idiot. Getting married does not somehow absolve one from having to deal with bills, bank accounts, and other unpleasantries of life. As bad as her actions were, he needs to see how he was also accountable in this mess. She could not have gotten away with as large a scam as this one without him wanting, on some level, to remain in the dark about her. For what possible reason would he not check his bank account statements, ever, for almost a year? Love may be blind, but this story tells me that your friend liked keeping his eyes closed.
posted by Asparagirl at 2:01 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Did she steal it? Well no. This was a joint account.
He is not some older person manipulated into allowing access to his cash...

Yes he's an idiot - he didnt check his statements/accounts at all. He had no reason to - he trusted her. You don't give the impression, but was this because she was 'handling their finances' and used this as a way to conceal her actions. That's pretty shady! Or was it just an oversight and pure carelessness on his part? Less shady more regretable.

You don't know her. Was it all to do with spite and acts of petty revenge, culminating in the "I've never loved you anyway" fiasco - thus leading him to finally become aware that all this time, unbeknownst to him she'd been using their joint accounts as a whipping boy.. every time he was late, went and played golf instead, didn't bow to her wishes whenever she stamped her foot ect. ect. (That's a chunk of change, does he work a lot? I'm not at all condoning her actions but if you were petulant and stupid it might seem justified.)

You have no idea what's been going on inside this marriage. Systematically syphoning off funds sounds clever and calculated. What you've described does not. She sounds precocious and spiteful. Not clever. Not calculated. (Maybe I just don't like the idea of this being the plan - with it's intention having always been futile. That would make the whole thing really really stupid.)

But no divorce huh...? (Perhaps he's a fucking idiot.) Don't get involved or emotionally invested in this. He's not telling you the whole story.

If he wants a shitty lawyer let him hire a shitty lawyer. I'm sure he's currently operating with some kind of goal in mind... but rather than what he has you believing - it's probably all to do with 'winning her back'. Ugh.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 4:26 AM on January 27, 2009

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