How divorce divides retirement assets

Posted by Lauren S. CohenMay 15, 20200 Comments

Like many in New York state, you've been saving for the golden years all your life, and suddenly, just as retirement draws near, your marriage comes to an end. You probably have questions and concerns about how the divorce will affect your retirement savings and to which  assets your ex-spouse is entitled.

If you don't have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement to specify what retirement assets are yours alone, then the assets will be divided between you two in the divorce. This will include any pensions and retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s and IRAs.

Another huge asset in many marriages is the house. Often, one of you will get to keep the house as a large share of the marriage's assets. Alternatively, the house can be sold and the profits split between both spouses.

What about Social Security?

During the last decades of many Americans' lives, Social Security is the only income they have. Perhaps you contributed to Social Security your whole career or perhaps you had no career because you were relying on your spouse's retirement accounts. Either way, there's a lot to think about.

Know that for divorcees whose marriages lasted at least 10 years, you could still get half your ex-spouse's Social Security benefits — even if your ex remarried — if all of the following are true in your situation:

  • You're not married.
  • You're 62 or older.
  • Your ex qualifies for Social Security retirement or disability.
  • The SS benefits to which you're entitled based on your own employment history are worth less than the amount you would get from your ex's benefits.

As many in Broome County probably know, the divorce rate for older Americans has been significantly on the rise in recent decades. If you're facing divorce in the golden years, it can be really complicated. You'll want an experienced attorney to walk you through the process, help protect your interests and minimize any tax burdens so that you can try to keep as much of your retirement savings as possible under New York law.