Unconventional Advice: Share a Checking Account with Your Ex


Share a checking account with your ex

As you may know I am divorced, remarried and have a blended family. It’s been several years since my first husband and I split up: we have a few years of being apart yet co-parenting under our belts. And one of the best pieces of advice I have may shock you:

Share a checking account with your ex!

Why On Earth Would You Share a Checking Account with Your Ex?, you ask.

Here in New Hampshire, a typical custody arrangement is a 50/50 split. Meaning you share equal time and responsibility for the children; including financial obligations. If you have children, then you have joint expenses like camp, doctor co-pays, soccer league dues, trombone lessons and so on. The list of expenses for our beloved little ones is never ending! This is why my #1 tip for divorced people is to set up a joint checking account with your ex. Really, I know this sounds C-R-A-Z-Y! I get it. You wanted to untie all that bound you two together. However, the reality is that you still have children together and still need to co-exist and co-parent.

Now I also have to point out that this advice is for exes that can stand each other. That can literally stand NEXT to each other on the sidelines of lacrosse games, or band concerts or other important occasions. This is for the parents who have put away their “marriage baggage” and can honestly say they want to make it easier for the children (and ultimately themselves).

Parenting is a Team Sport

Sharing a checking account with your ex can actually make your life easier. Here’s why:

  1. When sharing a checking account with your ex, no one owes anyone money. You don’t have to wait for your ex to drop off a check for his half of summer camp. He doesn’t have to wait for your half of AAU basketball registration fee. You both put equal shares into the joint account a write checks/debit cards from there.
  2. Resentment builds when you have paid the last 3 doctor co-pays and she hasn’t. It builds when she put the school lunch auto pay on her credit card and you never pay her back. In most cases it is not about the dollar amount so much as you feel like you pay for everything. That is when resentment builds and your relationship deteriorates further. And that, my friend, can affect your children. 
  3. It creates a record and everything is transparent. 

A Guide to Setting Up a Joint Bank Account with Your Ex

Step #1: Talk to your Ex and Set up the Account

First and foremost, talk to your ex/baby daddy or whomever you are sharing custody of the children. State how you would like to take the personal delivery of money out of the equation and just do transactions through the bank. Likely, you’ll receive a positive response. Offer to set up the joint bank account with your ex and make sure each of you has checks and a debit card.

Step #2: Pick a Monthly (Or Bi-Monthly) Amount to Deposit

Establish an agreed upon amount for a monthly deposit after doing some calculations of your shared expenses. 

Then set up auto transfer or mark your calendar. In my case we have set up 2 payments per month; the 1st and 15th our deposits go in. He is on auto pay and I manually transfer the money: both ways, it gets done. And honestly I’ve needed wiggle room on these dates in the past based on other things going on, but because we trust that is will get done, there is not a problem.

Step #3: Monitor the Account

Someone needs to watch over the account. As I type this, tomorrow is the first of the month and that means our gymnastics payment is automatically withdrawn from the joint account. Meanwhile we also paid for surf camp last week so I checked the account today to make sure we have enough money to pay. We don’t. So I sent in my August deposit a day early to ensure the bill is paid. Sharing a checking account with your ex does require paying extra attention. 

Sometimes the account needs to be funded with some extra money when bigger kids’ bills are due. When this happens I text him the amount and for what. We rarely have to talk about money in person. 

As a bonus, neither of us has to explain to the lady at the front desk that I am paying half now and Dad will be in another day to pay.  All of that “Hello, I am a divorced parent” embarrassment goes away. 

Step  #4: Be Flexible

Children’s costs fluctuate in certain seasons and years of the their lives. For example, ski club or braces are biggies. At these times we have to contribute more to our join account. Of course, this assumes that as parents you are in agreement on the children’s activities. 

Teen Parent Tip: The account is also a vehicle to transfer money to each other. The kids will say “Dad said he’d give me $60 towards some back to school clothes.” In this scenario, Dad can transfer money to the kid’s account and mom has access to it when they are shopping. Easy-Peasy.

Step #5: Be OK With Quirks

Allow for quirks. My joint-expense “quirk” is haircuts. For some reason that $16.99 haircut must be a joint expense. I don’t know why that is important to me, but it is. For him, it’s winter boots. When winter rolls around he’ll text me if he can put the girls new Boggs on the joint. Each person needs their special joint expense with no logical reason. 

Final Thoughts on A Joint Bank Account with Ex:

  • You’ll figure out what works for you. For example we don’t share expenses of clothes or back to school supplies. For us it started as daycare and medical expenses only but grew into school lunch money, ski club, braces, lifeguard training, and in our near future, driver’s ed!  
  • It takes time. In the beginning we were more rigid as we learned to trust the process and figure out what worked. Like all systems it did not flow as smoothly in the beginning as it does now. Also our children are teens now and joint expenses are typically co-pays and activities (with the exception of haircuts!)
  • The System will have to evolve as your kids grow. It is also worth noting that if you receive child support, your ex might say that activities should be paid with that money. And if you have a 3-year old in peewee soccer for $35 that might be okay. But the amount of activities that our children participate in only grows in time. For example, if your child starts playing violin there will be instrument rentals, possibly private lessons and band field trips to the symphony, all of which are arguably above and beyond child support. Our little sweeties get more and more expensive over the years. It behooves you to set up a system now that can grow with you over the years.

There is no denying that this type of arrangement takes trust and a functional level of communication with your ex. Divorce with children is challenging because you will always have your ex in your life, in some capacity. In my experience, setting up a joint checking account with my ex has helped us move forward and keep the focus on our children. 

If you have any questions, please let me know. And remember, we are in this together.


Previous articleSummer Shortcuts While Still Playing By The Rules
Next articleBack to School, Back at It: Workout Playlist Suggestions
Hi, I'm Brinn. I am an imperfect mom who strives to do better every day at caring for the people and pets in my life. Together with my husband, 4 daughters and 2 dogs, I live in Exeter (but have lived all over the Seacoast). I've spent the last 20-years working in the Recreation biz and currently manage of the Portsmouth Senior Activity Center and the Portsmouth Holiday Parade. Before Portsmouth, I worked for Rochester Recreation & Arena...Some of your children might have been taught to skate by me! 25 years ago I started my career in Boston at the New England Aquarium and pretty much love all animals. In my free time I volunteer for the Marine Mammal Rescue Team at the Seacoast Science Center as well as kayak and paddle board. Follow me at @brinnieloohoo on Instagram to learn more about my ever so imperfect attempt at life and motherhood.