Dear Dr. Don,
I had to retire on disability, and the company I worked for settled with me for $84,000. Then, a judge ruled in my favor for Social Security disability income, and I got 2½ years of back payments.
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At the time, I had kicked my wife out of my home and she found a place 10 blocks from me.
After a while she resigned from her local job and got a job in Mississippi, leaving me in Michigan with our then 4-year-old daughter. Her sister works at a Michigan credit union where I have my money, and she kept telling my wife about the funds in my bank account. She even made copies of the original checks and transactions involving the account.
I found that out when I moved to Mississippi for a while to try and work it out with my wife. One day my wife asked me to look for some papers because she had to go to work. In looking for them, I came across the copies of checks and transactions involving my bank account. With that, I was done for good. I left. I plan on filing for divorce very soon.
I now have that copy of the check and several copies of transactions that her sister sent to her. What can I do about this? Is there a statute of limitations on this kind of bank fraud, which is what I would call it?
-- George Grouse
It's clear that your sister-in-law shouldn't have done what she did. I'm not an attorney, but it's not likely that what she did would be considered bank fraud, and I don't think you need to worry about any statute of limitation issues.
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You could talk to the president of the credit union about her transgressions with your bank papers. In that conversation, you could hint broadly that you plan to complain to Michigan's Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation about the privacy issues involved. That office can tell you what banking regulations your sister-in-law violated.
While it's water under the bridge when it comes to preserving your privacy, you do have the option to vote with your feet and move your checking account to another financial institution -- one that doesn't have any of your wife's relatives working for it.
Since you're planning to divorce your wife, as part of the process, her attorney will try to put together a thorough picture of your finances. The lawyer may even hire a forensic accountant. You won't be able to hide these assets from them, so her knowing you've got money in the bank, while premature, was likely to happen anyway.