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How to protect your retirement account during a divorce

When you are going through a divorce, making sure that all your assets are divided equitably can be a challenge. Both parties often have strong emotional claims, and to make sure you are heard and your interests are protected, you need to have a solid plan of action, especially if you were not the primary contributor to an asset's growth, such as when one spouse makes most of the cash payments into a retirement account. As more and more Americans over 50 experience divorce, this issue is becoming even more important because those retirement accounts often represent financial stability that both partners have counted on.

Most retirement plans are marital property

What does this mean? Typically, it means the following:

  • Retirement accounts are considered to be the result of joint efforts even when one partner has made more of the contributions.
  • Account growth throughout the marriage should be eligible for division, even if the account itself predated the marriage.
  • The balance of the account's value at the beginning of the marriage may not be considered marital property, and you will need to consult a lawyer for more information about your specific case.
  • Dividing a shared retirement account means getting a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) authorizing the changes to the account.

Since Florida is an equitable distribution state and not an equal division state, the individual needs and contributions of each spouse will also be considered, making it possible for you to negotiate for a larger portion of a retirement account if necessary. This typically involves some trade-offs, but working with an experienced lawyer will provide you with the opportunity to make your best case to the judge.

Protect yourself

If you are going through a divorce, a qualified family law attorney will not only be able to help you make the arguments you need to get the fair division of property you expect from your divorce, the right lawyer will also be able to guide you through the process in a way that demystifies it. As soon as you know you will be getting into divorce proceedings , it is important to find the right representation, even if you believe that the divorce will proceed with little conflict. It simply protects your interests.

When you go in for a consultation, make sure you discuss the assets in the marriage and your goals for a final distribution after the divorce is final. That way, you can get specific legal advice that matches your needs. Contact a lawyer today to get the process started.

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