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Property division in divorce includes retirement savings

Retirement might be years away when couples in Georgia decide to end their marriages. Their savings for retirement, however, will generally be counted as marital assets whether they are held in individual accounts or employer-sponsored plans. Accessibility of funds, penalties for early withdrawal and impacts on Social Security benefits all need to be considered by people negotiating their split.

Individual retirements accounts by their nature only have one name on them, but accounts established during the marriage will be evaluated during a divorce. When negotiating the division of assets, these accounts cannot be distributed without tax penalties prior to the account holder reaching age 59-1/2. Divisions made to workplace pension plans and 401(k) accounts must be executed with a qualified domestic relations order. The advice of a financial adviser knowledgeable about retirement accounts as well as an attorney is often beneficial when preparing this document.

Marriages of more than 10 years raise issues about Social Security benefits after a divorce. A person might have the right to draw upon half of an ex-spouse's benefits. In some cases, this amount might be higher than what the person would have received based solely on his or her earning record.

Because retirement accounts might contain substantial funds, emotions could run high for a person confronted by the need to give half to a former partner. Legal advice could help a person understand how family law directs these divisions. An attorney could recommend tradeoffs during property division negotiations that might reduce financial strain now and in the future. Retirement accounts that must be held until certain ages might be exchanged for liquid assets that a departing spouse can cash out now.

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