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Retirement Assets

Going through a divorce is one of the most difficult things that many people will ever have to do. If you’re suffering in a bad marriage, you might think that it’s best to rush through the divorce process as quickly as possible. However, if you’re not careful, the outcome of the divorce decree can be as painful as the marriage itself.

It’s critical to make sure you leave the marriage in the best financial standing possible. While most people look at tangible property like houses and cars in a divorce, they often forget about retirement resources. Assets like 401K accounts, IRAs, pensions, profit sharing, and tax-sheltered annuity plans can be worth hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. If you get unfavorable divorce terms related to retirement assets, this can prevent you from being able to retire or force you to start working at an age when you should be slowing down and enjoying life.

The Law Office of Shannon A. Jones can help make sure this dismal scenario doesn’t happen to you. We have over 20 years of experience helping clients in Memphis and surrounding areas get the money they deserve in disputes like divorce. Our skilled team will do everything we can to help you resolve your divorce so that you’re in the best financial shape possible – now and in the future. We will leave no stone unturned as we help determine what retirement assets you can claim from your spouse and which accounts you can protect.

Whether you’re trying to claim rights to your spouse’s retirement assets or protect your hard-earned money, the Law Office of Shannon A. Jones can help. Call us today at 901-390-9041 or contact us online to set up a 100% confidential consultation.

How is Property Divided in a Tennessee Divorce?

If you and your spouse can agree on how your assets will be divided, you can independently draw up a Marital Dissolution Agreement. Otherwise, you will have to take the dispute to court, where your assets will be divided “equitably” as determined by a judge. Equitable does not necessarily mean equal. The court will look at evidence presented and use these factors as well as Tennessee law to decide what ratio is fair.

In the case of retirement assets, the court will typically issue a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). The QDRO is a complex legal document that dictates how retirement assets are divided and how the plan administrator distributes the assets between the former spouses. The court will order one of three types of divisions:

  • Separate interest. This type of order means that the alternate payee (the spouse whose entitled to a portion of their ex-spouse’s retirement assets) can receive benefits from the retirement assets whenever they choose.

  • Shared interest. This means that the spouse who receives the asset must pay their former spouse a specific amount after the plan payout begins. This is the least common type of division.

  • Offset. This is when one spouse gets the entire pension and other assets are divided in a way to make each spouse’s total award equitable. This type of division doesn’t require a QDRO.

Am I Entitled to My Spouse’s Retirement Assets?

Any property, including a retirement asset, that was acquired during the marriage is usually deemed to be “marital property,” which is subject to division by the court. Therefore, if your spouse had a job while you were married and they earned a pension or other deferred compensation, then you might be entitled to some of these retirement assets.

On the other hand, property that was acquired before the marriage is typically considered “non-marital” property that the other spouse can’t touch in a divorce. Under the strictest definition, this usually means that if your spouse had a job and left that employer before they married you, then retirement assets from that employer are off-limits in the divorce.

However, retirement funds provide an incredibly complicated exception to the “marital property” standard. Even if your spouse left their job before they married you, at least some of the value of the retirement asset might be considered as marital property if it gained value while you and your spouse were married. For example, if your spouse’s pension vested or their retirement account rose in value during your marriage, then you might be entitled to some of these funds.

Since the rules surrounding marital property are so complex, it’s critical that you consult an experienced divorce attorney who can help determine which retirement assets are available to you in your divorce.

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What Do I Need to Show to Demand or Withhold Retirement Assets in a Divorce?

If you are trying to withhold your retirement assets in a divorce, you’ll need to gather financial statements and other legal documents that show which retirement assets you owned before you got married. Judges will typically first award each spouse any assets they owned before the marriage and then divide other property.

When you are trying to claim a right to your spouse’s retirement assets, you must demonstrate that either your spouse acquired the property during your marriage or the asset gained value while you were married. Documents that will be important pieces of evidence include:

  • Annual benefits statements

  • A full description of the plan’s benefits, terms, and conditions

  • Text on the plan administrator’s QDRO processes

  • Valuation by a forensic accountant to demonstrate how much the asset is worth

Beyond looking at evidence of the couple’s retirement assets in deciding how to divide property, courts also look at factors, such as:

  • How long the marriage lasted

  • Each spouse’s age, health, skills, future employment and earning capacity, financial resources, and needs

  • The value of each spouse’s non-marital property

  • Amounts of Social Security benefits available to each spouse

  • Each spouse’s contribution to the other spouse’s earning power

  • Tax consequences

  • Each spouse’s contribution to the preservation or increase/ decrease in value of property, such as the contribution of a homemaker maintaining the couple’s house

Contact a Tennessee Divorce Attorney Today

If you’re considering getting a divorce and have questions about your or your spouse’s retirement assets, contact the Law Office of Shannon A. Jones today. We can help answer all your questions and help you protect yourself and secure the money you’re entitled to. Call us at 901-390-9041 or reach us online to speak with a knowledgeable divorce attorney today.