Will my Retirement Account/401k/IRA be Protected in my Divorce?
Learn from an Ocean and Monmouth County Divorce Lawyer some strategies for maintaining your hard-earned savings when you legally separate from your partner.
The divorce process is full of moving pieces that can wreak havoc on your physical, mental, and emotional health. Having a skilled divorce attorney can ensure that financial distress doesn’t have to be part of the separation, too. The separation of assets is a key piece of any divorce, and when you have been in a marriage for a substantial amount of time, the chances are that you will have a large 401 (k) as a marital asset. How do you protect your retirement savings from being taken in the divorce?
Determine how you would like to handle your divorce: in court or out of court in settlement
The direction you choose to take in your divorce proceedings will impact how you go about handling the division of assets and protecting your retirement savings. If you choose to go through the courts to finalize your division of assets, ensure that you properly and transparently report all assets. A judge who learns that a person has been hiding assets will likely rule in favor of awarding an amplified amount to the spouse.
If you and your spouse decide to settle the division of assets outside of court, the process will likely be more rapid and less costly. This is a great option for a couple who is still on amicable terms. Because the proceedings are not open to the public and driven by a New Jersey Superior Court: Family Part judge, a separating couple can experience a much more flexible process, in many ways setting their own rules. The finalized agreement is, of course, subject to approval by the court.
To ensure a just division of assets and the protection of retirement savings, it is imperative that you ensure a fair settlement and, if possible, not take cash, or lump sum, payout, as it is subject to steep penalties. At the end of it all, one who receives a lump sum ends up receiving much less money and, unless immediate cash is required, loses out on their fair share in the division of assets.
Be aware of your assets, including your retirement funds
A divorce is a business transaction. While it is emotionally trying and exhausting physical, mental, and financial resources, it is ultimately a legal arrangement to determine who takes what in the split. As such, it is important to make sure that you are clear about what your marital assets and your shared debt are. It is also important to have a firm handle on what your personal assets are, as they may be taken into question during the course of the divorce proceedings. What was the balance of your retirement savings when you got married? What is it now? Taking the initiative to know this information will save you stress and potentially money in the long run.
Check your prenuptial agreement
All income added to a 401 (k) during the course of a marriage is considered a marital asset and is therefore considered to be shared with your spouse. In the absence of a prenuptial agreement, the court will take responsibility for dividing the assets among spouses. However, if you and your spouse signed a prenuptial agreement, the court will rule based on the legally-binding agreements outlined within.
Be aware of the Qualified Domestic Relations Order
A spouse may take a Qualified Domestic Relations Order to their ex’s employer to ensure that they receive their fair share of the retirement account. A Qualified Domestic Relations Order is a court-ordered document that enables the spouse’s retirement administrator to swiftly and legally transfer retirement funds into the partner’s bank account. The entitled amount will reflect a deduction if you have paid into your spouse’s retirement fund during the course of your marriage.
Attempting to hide or resist marital assets such as retirement funds to protect shared marital assets improperly is not worth it. Seek the support of a skilled and experienced divorce attorney to help you protect as much of your assets as you can while complying fully with New Jersey Divorce Law and avoiding lengthy and potentially costly litigation with your spouse.
Contact A Brick Retire Savings Attorney Today
Attorney Peter J. Bronzino is committed to serving our clients across Spring Lake, Sea Girt, Point Pleasant, Toms River, and the greater Ocean County area in all divorce and family law cases.
Our unique approach supports our clients’ financial well-being, leaving them to focus on their emotional and physical well-being as they move into the next chapter of their life.