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Handling retirement accounts in divorce proceedings: Part II

Our immediately preceding blog post discussed the advisability for divorcing couples in many instances to solicit the professional help of an established family law attorney with a proven background in property division matters.

The reason for that: Not only do many couples have significant assets residing in real estate holdings, family businesses, art, jewelry, automobiles and other personal property, but they often also have retirement assets that may exist in multiple savings accounts.

And those can, collectively, add up to some real complexity in understanding and dealing with in a marital dissolution. In our preceding post, we enumerated some of the types of retirement accounts that couples typically hold. In addition to those, and dependent on a person's work status (e.g., state or federal government employee, career civil servant, minister, teacher), other types of accounts can feature. Those can include FERS (federal employees retirement system), CSRS (civil service retirement system) and a host of others.

All those accounts need to be understood. That understanding includes whether all or some of the money in them is deemed to be the separate property of one of the spouses or martial property that is subject to distribution in the divorce process. That determination in itself requires a careful assessment of when assets were acquired, who purchased them, what has happened to them during the marriage and other factors.

Many other considerations can also come into play. How long was the marriage? What are the financial needs of both spouses going forward post-divorce? What is the earning potential of both? Is there an agreement in place -- for example, a prenuptial agreement -- that addresses savings-account assets and excludes them from the marital estate?

These and other factors that can arise in any given dissolution where property consideration is an important issue spotlight the need to involve a proven property division attorney in the valuation and division of retirement assets.

Source:, "Who gets the retirement accounts in a divorce?" Janet Raasch, May 29, 2013

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