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Can a stay-at-home spouse claim part of the retirement account?

On Behalf of | Nov 2, 2021 | High Asset Divorce |

Stay-at-home spouses sacrifice their own earning potential for the betterment of their families. Rather than developing a career, they perform uncompensated tasks around the house that would cost a lot of money if the family hired a professional.

Having a stay-at-home spouse makes it easier for an ambitious professional to completely devote themselves to their career, as they know their home and family will have someone taking care of everything. Unfortunately, those sacrifices made by the stay-at-home spouse may ultimately leave them at a major disadvantage in the event of a divorce. They may not be able to earn a competitive wage, and they may not have their own retirement savings.

Can a stay-at-home spouse make a claim against their ex’s retirement account or pension?

Dividing retirement accounts is common in Kentucky divorces

Equitable distribution rules will treat everything a married couple earns during the marriage as marital property. Unless the couple has a marital agreement designating the pension or retirement account as separate property, at least the amount accrued during the marriage is part of the marital estate.

A judge can consider the amounts accrued during the marriage when they decide how to split the assets between the spouses. If they do decide to actually divide the retirement account or pension, drafting a Qualified Domestic Relations Order can be a way for the couple to split the account without incurring taxes and penalties because of an early withdrawal.

Actually splitting the retirement account isn’t the only option

Dividing the retirement accounts can be a good approach to splitting assets in certain divorces, but other times it may be the value that the account represents that matters more. The spouse whose name is not on the retirement account could use their equitable portion of the account to balance out a request for other assets, like the retention of the marital home or a small business.

Recognizing that the account is subject to division can make it easier for spouses to negotiate a practical settlement outside of court. Retirement accounts can often be a major point of contention and high-asset divorces, and you may need to negotiate to obtain a fair resolution. Learning about state law and what assets you share with your spouse will help you plan for property division in your high-asset divorce.

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