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What happens to retirement funds in a divorce?

| Mar 30, 2021 | Divorce

Maybe you are already retired and currently depend on your spouse’s pension for all of your income. Perhaps you are about to retire in the next few years and have planned everything so far with a retirement account that you share with your spouse. You may not have benefits in your name or worry about losing what you have saved through employer pension or retirement benefits.

Worrying about what divorce might mean for your retirement is understandable and, in fact, quite intelligent. The financial implications of divorce could affect everything from your ability to stay in the same home when you retire to the age at which you can finally leave the workforce. What do the Georgia courts typically do with retirement account when you divorce your spouse?

Who owns the retirement account?

The first question you have to ask about the pension or retirement account is whether it belongs solely to one spouse. Do you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that designates the retirement account as separate property? If not, how much of the account’s balance is from during the marriage?

The Georgia family courts try to be fair or equitable in how they split up your property. That means that they will give each spouse ownership rights in any property the couple purchased or income they earned during the marriage. Even if the retirement account is a benefit through someone’s employment, at least the amount accrued during marriage is likely subject to division.

How do the courts split the retirement account?

Sometimes, the courts don’t divide the retirement account or pension but rather use its value when deciding how to split up other property. If they do decide to divide the account itself, they will usually determine an amount or percentage that each spouse should receive.

Once an attorney drafts a Qualified Domestic Relations Order that reflects the court order, the judge can approve the QDRO. After that, the plan administrator managing the retirement account will use the QDRO to split the account without tax penalties or if early withdrawal signs.

Negotiating for your fair share of complex assets like retirement benefits during a divorce requires both an understanding of Georgia law and in-depth knowledge of your marital property.

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