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What will happen to my retirement accounts after divorce?

| Apr 7, 2021 | Divorce |

If you have an impending divorce, you probably have a lot on your mind. You might be thinking about who will get custody of the children, who will be paying alimony to who, and who will get the house and other assets. If you’re like most people, your 401(k) and other retirement accounts are among your most valuable assets. Here’s what you need to know about how a divorce court is likely to deal with the retirement accounts that you’ve spent your whole career building up.

Georgia property classification

The first thing to know about the divorce process is how Georgia courts classify property. The court will put everything you own into two categories: separate property and marital property. If something is separate property, you’ll be able to keep it. If it’s marital property, it’s subject to division by the court.

In general, personal property is anything you owned before getting married. Certain things that are in your name exclusively can also be personal property, such as student loan debt. It’s possible for some things to start out as personal property but become marital property, such as when you own a house that your spouse moves into with you after marriage.

Most things you obtained after you got married are marital property. Georgia divorce courts look at a long list of factors when deciding how to divide marital property between the spouses. Some of the factors they consider are each spouse’s level of education, earning capacity, physical health, special needs and their behavior during the divorce process.

How retirement accounts fit in

The classification of retirement accounts depends entirely upon how much of their balance you accrued before and after marriage.

In other words, if you started building your 401(k) before getting married, the court will calculate how much of its current balance you earned before you were married. That portion of the account will be your separate property for you to keep.

The amount in the account that was earned after your wedding day is marital property. It will be divided just like any other marital asset.

Divorce is a highly stressful process, and property division is one of the most contentious parts of it. Knowing how your hard-earned retirement accounts are likely to be divided will help you to prepare to fight for your due portion.