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How to protect your retirement assets during divorce

On Behalf of | Apr 25, 2024 | Divorce

While navigating the emotional toll of divorce is likely your main focus if your marriage has come to an end, financial security shouldn’t be neglected. In Virginia, marital assets are subject to equitable distribution during divorce. This can include retirement accounts, a significant chunk of your long-term financial planning. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help protect these assets.

Understanding how Old Dominion classifies assets is key. The state is an equitable distribution state, meaning assets acquired during the marriage are divided fairly, not necessarily equally. This applies to retirement accounts funded with contributions made during a marriage. However, there are ways to potentially shield some of these assets.

Planning for every eventuality: Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements

The ideal scenario for safeguarding retirement assets involves proactive planning before marriage. A prenuptial agreement, often seen as a sign of distrust, can be a powerful tool for financial transparency. It allows you and your partner to clearly define how premarital assets, including retirement accounts, will be handled in the event of a divorce. Postnuptial agreements serve the same purpose but are established after marriage.

Strategies for safeguarding your retirement

If your spouse is entitled to a portion of your retirement savings, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) becomes crucial. A QDRO is a court order that specifies how your retirement benefits will be divided with your spouse. This can offer more control than simply letting the court decide. A QDRO can specify a percentage of your future benefits to be paid to your ex-spouse or a fixed dollar amount.

Assets acquired before the marriage or through inheritance generally remain separate property. Contributions to retirement accounts using premarital funds might be considered separate property, though the value increase of those contributions during the marriage might be marital property.

Dividing retirement accounts can have tax consequences. Distributing funds through a QDRO typically avoids immediate tax burdens. However, it’s important to understand how the future distribution of those funds will be taxed and factor that into your overall financial planning.

Protecting your retirement assets during a Virginia divorce requires knowledge and taking proactive steps. While navigating a divorce can be challenging, you can take control and safeguard your financial future by understanding your legal options.