Protecting your retirement in divorce

As you go through a divorce, you may worry about protecting your share of money. Between property division, child support, spousal maintenance and more, finances will be one of the most significant factors in your divorce proceedings.

While most of the discussions about money deal with what you will receive in the present and near future, retirement accounts are also an important factor. If your spouse has worked while you stayed home to take care of the children and the house, you may lose your ability to retire comfortably.

Retirement accounts are marital property

When you build a retirement account during a marriage, New York considers that marital property. If your spouse has an account through work, like a 401(k) or pension plan, you can claim a portion of that in divorce.

Qualified domestic relations order

When you take your share of your spouse’s retirement savings, make sure you use a qualified domestic relations order, or QDRO. This order lets the plan manager withdraw your share of the savings without paying extra taxes or fees. The QDRO also lets you put that money into your own retirement fund, like an individual retirement account (IRA) or your own 401(k).

You can claim Social Security benefits on your former spouse’s record

If your spouse makes more money than you, you may also have a claim to extra benefits from Social Security. Lower-earning spouses who stayed in a marriage for 10 years or more can claim benefits equal to half the amount of the higher-earning spouse’s benefits.

Retirement saving affect your future

Divorce can affect your wealth significantly. If your former spouse earned more than you, you might worry about the money you need in the present.

But you also have a right to the retirement savings your spouse built during marriage. Taking your rightful share ensures that you can retire in comfort.