Three Ways to Keep Divorce from Wrecking Your Retirement

While retirement might not be in the forefront of your mind during a divorce, it’s something that needs to be considered, especially if your facing a “gray divorce.” Divorce can have a profound impact on your retirement savings and financial future. Depending on the circumstances of your split, you may see your retirement prospects change dramatically.

So, how do you keep a divorce from wrecking your retirement? TruNorth Divorce has put together a list of three things to best protect your retirement.

1. Work with the right divorce professional

Work with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®) or a CDFA®-Mediator. CDFA®’s are experts at divorce finance and know how to preserve your retirement. They understand how taxes work with various kinds of assets and how to value a pension. They can predict the tax consequences of transfers between spouses, and help to ensure your retirement moneys will be properly transferred between spouses.

Lawyers do not have this expertise! At TruNorth Divorce our mediators and advocates are not just expert mediators, they are also CDFA’s and trained divorce coaches. The law is typically a non-issue in most divorces—most divorces don’t need to be processed through the legal system. Your settlement agreement, custody agreement, and divorce filings will always be legally compliant and the quality of your divorce far better when you work with TruNorth Divorce than if you work with an attorney alone.

2. Consider the tax implications of your settlement agreement

Not all assets are treated the same by the IRS. Equity in a house isn’t taxed up to $250,000 per spouse (assuming there are no other prior real estate rollovers pre-1997). Withdrawals from an IRA are taxed at your marginal tax rate. Big difference. Likewise, joint funds in brokerage accounts can be subject to capital gains taxes.

Also, the division of retirement account assets during a divorce, specifically, can have unique tax implications and governing regulations. It’s important to look at the particulars of each account and determine its actual after-tax value. A Roth IRA with $50,000 sitting in it is worth more than a 401(k) with the same amount of money. A pension distribution of $50,000, too, will be treated differently tax-wise.

3. Make sure you have a properly executed Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 protects retirement assets in 401(k), 403(b), and Thrift Savings Plans for federal employees and military personnel. For these plans, you will need to draft a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) so that the asset split becomes legal and for retirement plan administrators to accept and execute it.

A QDRO endorsed by a judge and executed properly provides a means to roll over a portion of a qualified retirement plan without penalty, tax-free. Depending on the circumstances, you may choose to continue contributing to the retirement plan. You could also roll it over into a Roth IRA through a trustee transfer. You can even take penalty-free withdrawals from transferred qualified retirement plans when they are handled within a QDRO—very helpful if you need some extra cash for a house down payment or to retire debt. Without a well-drafted QDRO you could wait years for your retirement account transfer.

Taking the proper steps to accurately assess your retirement assets during a divorce will put the right financial foot forward as you wipe the slate clean and retake sole ownership of your assets. For more post-divorce budgeting tips and all topics divorce, visit our blogsite.

Reach out to a divorce mediator in Maryland if you want a kinder, smarter, and more affordable divorce. If you’re on the fence and you have a list of concerns related to your divorce, don’t hesitate to Schedule a Free Strategy Session to go over your options. 



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