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Handling retirement funds in a divorce

When Florida couples decide to divorce later in life, they may run into specific financial concerns that could affect retirement. The divorce rate for Americans over 50 has more than doubled since the 1990s. At the same time, the rate has stayed flat or even declined for younger demographics. As an increasing number of older couples opt for divorce, they may discover complex financial repercussions. Many spouses share decades of accumulated assets, including extensive investment holdings and retirement funds.

People may need to accustom themselves to the idea that they will need to split their retirement funds as part of the divorce. Even when one partner has accumulated the funds as part of his or her job, that account is still considered a marital asset. The change could also require both partners to consider aggressive strategies to step up their retirement savings after the split is finalized. Even when both parties are well aware that they will need to divide their retirement funds, it is critical that they follow the specific guidelines for division in order to avoid unnecessary and costly penalties.

Couples may be ready to divide their funds themselves or agree on a division through mediation. However, in order to divide a 401(k) or a pension plan, a qualified domestic relations order or QDRO is necessary. This is a court order issued during a divorce that is submitted to the plan administrator and allows a portion of a retirement fund to be transferred without taxes or other penalties.

While some types of savings require a QDRO for division, others, like IRAs, can be handled in the divorce decree. A family law attorney can work with a divorcing spouse to achieve a just outcome in terms of property division and spousal support.

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