How to Divide Retirement Accounts in a California Divorce

How to Divide Retirement Accounts in a California Divorce

You can never predict when a marriage might end. It can happen after a year, after 50, or hopefully, it may never happen! When you enter into a marriage, you go into it with the expectation of sharing your life with your spouse. You two build your life together, which include retirement and pension plans. However, what happens when you decide to divorce?

The attorneys at Family Law Advocacy Group can help when it comes time to divide retirement accounts. The most important things to note is what account you and your ex will be splitting. In most cases, common plans couples share include:

  • 401(k)
  • 403(b)
  • Pension plans
  • Tax-sheltered annuities
  • Individual retirement account (IRA)

In California, retirement plans are generally divided equally between the two parties. For IRAs, couples would usually file for a transfer incident. Transfer incidents allow the parties to pay tax on specifically the assets they have gained. If a couple does not distinguish their division as a transfer incident, one party might end up paying taxes on all the goods and have to also pay an early withdrawal fee. Essentially, the designated amount rolls over to the other spouse.

For other retirement plans, including 401(k)s, a couple must file Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs). Because California is a “community estate,” property and assets gained during marriage is split equally between the spouses. This includes retirement plans. A QRDO is a type of court order that determines how the retirement benefits are divided.

QDROs are prepared in addition to marital settlement agreements or the final judgement on the divorce. In order to successfully divide the retirement benefits, it is important that the QDRO include all assets and privileges granted in the retirement plan. In order to successfully divvy up the accounts, it would be prudent to hire a professional who is well versed in family law.

At Family Law Advocacy Group, our certified family law specialist is ready to help you. If you and your spouse are going through a divorce, contact our San Bernardino divorce attorneys. We can help review your case and make sure that your retirement accounts are divided fairly and properly.


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