Family Law Specialist Certified By The State Bar Of California

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Can you split a retirement account in divorce? 

On Behalf of | May 18, 2024 | DIVORCE - High-Asset Divorce

Retirement accounts can be somewhat complicated in a divorce. After all, if your spouse has a pension plan or a retirement account from their employer, they are likely not drawing from that account yet. They don’t actually have access to the funds, even though they are actively earning their retirement plan through employment.

California is a community property state, so assets are supposed to be divided equally between both parties. Is it possible to split up a pension plan or a retirement account so that you have access to those benefits in the future? You may have been counting on your spouse’s retirement plan, so losing access to those benefits would mean there’s no way for you to retire as expected.

A qualified domestic relations order

Yes, you can divide the pension plan in advance. To do it, the court uses a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). Once this order has been issued, both parties have to follow it. It will specify what percentage of the retirement plan goes to each person, and the future payouts have to be divided accordingly.

You may not get 50% of the pension plan. Much of it depends on the length of your marriage. For example, your spouse may have earned some of the pension prior to the marriage, and they may continue earning more of it after you get divorced. You may only get 50% of the total accrued during your marriage, which could be 25% or 30% of the overall amount.

Every case is unique, so it’s quite important to know what legal steps to take as you go through this process.