What Happens to Retirement Accounts After Divorce in Virginia?

When you decide to get divorced, it's a given that you will need to have a discussion about division of property. Who will get the house? The boat? The third car?

But there's one thing that couples don't necessarily think about right away: the retirement accounts. If you've been married for quite a while, there's a chance that you have amassed a good amount of money in your 401(k)—and, unfortunately, you're probably going to have to share it.

Any pensions or retirement money accumulated while you were married are fair game for marital property division in Virginia. This money would be included when the court is deciding on the equitable distribution of your property. Of course, if you and your ex-spouse are able to decide outside of court on the way to divide your property, you could possibly keep your whole 401(k), if that is what you both want to happen.

Whether property division is decided by the judge or between the spouses, typically when in court neither person can receive more than half of the value of the other party's pension or retirement plan that accumulated during the marriage. However, it is important to note that percentages do vary wildly in settlement, outside of court. And remember, it's what accumulated during the marriage, not necessarily over the entire life of the retirement account. If you opened your 401(k) before you got married, the courts will usually consider how much you had in the account when you got married as your separate property and then divide the rest.

Property division can be one of the most complicated parts of divorce, and it can be extremely helpful to have an experienced attorney on your side. If you live in the Richmond or Williamsburg area, contact the law firm Smith Strong at 804-325-1245 (Richmond) or 757-941-4298 (Williamsburg) for a consultation.

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