As you go through your divorce, assets that you and your spouse own can face division. With a few exceptions, anything that you two have earned can be split between the two of you. One type of account you may not think about is your retirement savings.

If both you and your spouse work, you may both have equal retirement savings that you can keep separate. But if only one of you has a significant amount in a 401(k) or similar account with tax benefits, you may each get a share. When you separate the savings, you will want to make sure you can avoid unnecessary fees and taxes.

You may have to give your ex-spouse a share

In Kentucky, retirement savings you build during your marriage become marital property. Even if the account is only in your name and you are the only one who added money to it, your spouse can claim a share. A court will consider how much your spouse contributed to your marriage by staying home and taking care of the children and the house. If this allowed you to focus on working and making money, a judge might grant your spouse some of your retirement savings.

A QDRO helps you avoid extra fees

When you divide your 401(k) or other account with tax benefits, you will need a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). This document is a court order that lets your account manager take out funds with no penalties. If you take money out without this order, you will pay both early withdrawal fees as well as extra taxes.

A QDRO avoids this by letting the account manager know that your withdrawal is part of a court order.

You have spent years building up your retirement savings. But like all marital property, you may find it divided in your divorce. Following the proper steps can help you avoid losing money in penalties and taxes.