Nancy L. Sponseller

Working for you & with you.

Columbus Retirement Accounts

What Happens to Retirement Accounts in Divorce?

Historically, a family home and any other real estate were almost always the largest assets to be dealt with in a divorce. In recent years, though, many individual’s 401(k) plans and other qualified retirement accounts in the private sector have come to rival or even surpass home values. For those employed in the public sector, pensions and public retirement plan benefits may also be major assets.

At our Columbus, Ohio, area family law firm, led by respected attorney Nancy L. Sponseller, we help our clients understand and deal effectively with all legal issues involving retirement accounts and other complex assets. Please contact us for the counsel you need to protect your financial interests and future.

Marital Property for Division May Include Your 401(k) or Pension

You may have been contributing to a qualified retirement savings account, such as a 401(k) plan, for many years with your fund choices and their performance as your primary concern. If the prospect of divorce has now entered the picture, it may be a surprise (or unpleasant shock) to learn that these accounts, if they are marital property in your case, must be divided and shared with your divorcing spouse.

All contributions to such accounts — and all gains achieved — during the marriage are considered marital assets subject to equitable property division. It does not matter that only your name, or your spouse’s, is on a given account, nor that you would pay severe penalties if you “cashed out” the account today.

We Know the Legal Nuances of Dividing Complex Assets

Dividing these assets without liquidating them requires specific legal processes and instruments, depending on the type. Your situation may require:

  • qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) for 401(k), other defined contribution or defined benefit plans, and other privately administered investments
  • division of property order (DOPO) for plans and accounts provided by government entities, such as the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) and Public Employee Retirement System (PERS)

We work closely with an experienced CPA and other financial experts as necessary to:

  • Accurately value complex assets and determine what portion, if any, should be treated as separate (non-marital) property
  • Ensure you are informed of tax consequences and able to plan accordingly

If retirement accounts or pensions are important assets in your divorce, it may be critical to work with a lawyer who will defend your rights aggressively and ensure all legal procedures are handled properly. Please contact us today to schedule your free 30 minute consultation on the collaborative divorce process.