Can a parent take money out of a child’s bank account?

When a couple has a baby, they will often decide to open a savings account or bond for the benefit of the child. But whether this was opened at birth or at a later age, when things become fraught and the relationship ends in divorce, the question often arises: can a parent withdraw money from the child’s account?

If you have concerns about your finances or your child’s money and you feel you need legal advice, contact specialist family solicitor Mark Heptinstall of Slater Heelis Solicitors. He is recognised as a ‘Leading Individual’ in The Legal 500 and ranked in Chambers UK, and is described as having “the amazing ability to bring calm into troubled waters”.

Fundamentally, any money held in an account in the child’s name belongs entirely to them. However, there are many accounts held on behalf of children with one of their parents as trustee.  Here, providing the trustee can prove they are using the monies for the benefit of the child, they can withdraw funds from the child’s account. In reality, it is extremely difficult to police cases where withdrawn cash is used for other purposes.

What can I do to protect my child’s bank account?

Most banks or building societies allow parents to set specific limits or requirements as to how a child can use their account. Of course, this also depends on their age and understanding: the younger the child, the more likely the parent is going to have greater control. There are several things you can do to try to protect your child’s bank account. This may include:

  • Allowing the child and adult trustee to only deposit money and withdraw funds in specific and limited circumstances
  • Cap the number of withdrawals a named account holder or trustee can make
  • Limit the total amount of money the child and any other linked persons can withdraw in a day or any transaction
  • Restrict how the child and any linked person accesses the account. For example, this could include restricting online banking or only using in-branch banking.

Obviously, these protections can only be applied by an adult trustee, so it is sensible to make sure you are a joint signatory to the account with the other parent from the outset and ensure neither party can withdraw funds without the permission of the other. Even if you were not originally added to your child’s account when it was opened, the other parent can always add in another trustee at a later date.


Is there any emergency action I can take if my partner has withdrawn money from our child’s bank account?

If you are concerned that your partner may withdraw money from your child’s bank account, then you may have grounds to apply for a freezing injunction on your child’s behalf which will preserve the funds. To get a freezing injunction, you will have to convince the court that:

  • The course of action is justifiable
  • You have a good arguable case
  • There is a real risk that the funds would be dissipated
  • That it is just and convenient to grant the application

A freezing injunction is not appropriate in every case, and even though someone has acted unreasonably in other areas, it does not necessarily mean that a freezing injunction will be granted.

Are there any alternatives to a child having a bank account?

If you believe there is a risk of the other parent withdrawing money from your child’s bank account, prepaid cards, which are usually controlled by an app, can offer a real alternative. These providers give adults more control than child bank accounts, and lets them set spending limits or add rewards. The downside is that there are usually fees for topping up the card, plus an additional monthly fee. However, the upside is that limited sums are more likely to be deposited, and therefore the risk of a large amount being taken by the other adult is reduced to what is put on the card.

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