• 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

My wife just asked for a divorce, what happens to the 500k+ in the account?

My wife just asked for a divorce, what happens to the 500k+ in the account. Can it be divided in half without it being treated as a withdrawal?
I have to assume the account is a pre-tax account? Otherwise, no problem. Consult your tax (and divorce) attorney(s).
I'm not an attorney. Obviously you will need one. I believe, at your request your brokerage company can split the funds in such a manner that they retain their position as IRA's. Roth's, etc. Fidelity would allot the portion of funds at your instruction. The folks at Fidelity can work it out with you. Good luck.
Divorce is complex, and I have to make some assumptions about your question. If my assumptions are incorrect, my answer will also be incorrect.

Assumption #1: I assume you're talking about some form of retirement account, probably a 401(k) or a traditional IRA, and that you are concerned about a withdrawal having tax consequences.

Assumption #2: I assume you have not yet consulted a divorce attorney. When you do so, weigh my answer against what your attorney says. The attorney will know the law for your jurisdiction far better than I do, but may not know much about investing.

My answer: In the divorce settlement, assets are divided between the spouses. This includes retirement assets. Some retirement assets are divided according to a QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order), which adds some legal complexity. Others may just have an amount ordered to be transfered as part of the divorce decree.

What happens with a typical 401(k) or IRA is, the distribution pursuant to a divorce decree or a QDRO is not a tax event. After all the legal dust has settled and it is known how much needs to be transferred, the transfer is typically and institutional transfer. Assets leave your account without tax consequence to you, and are deposited in your soon-to-be-ex's account like a rollover distribution with no tax consequences to your STBX.

The answer of how much is transferred is not always 50%. Consult your attorney, as all the facts specific to your situation will interact. It is possible to give more (or less) than 50% of the assets as part of a negotiation with concessions in another area of dispute, or of other assets.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I do not know what legal jurisdiction your divorce was filed in, and I do not know the relevant facts of your situation. Some of these things may materially change what happens. One size does not fit all.
Much to be said for not making lawyers rich. However, I have seen the weakest member of a couple screwed one too many times. I would try to get your initial question answered by Fidelity or a CPA, but be prepared to defend yourself it you need to. And, if it all is a surprise, try to slow down and take a deep breath.
When I was divorced, my then wife and I decided to go through mediation rather than to fight it out and make the lawyers rich.  We split things more or less in half (may depend on the state), but It was a negotiation.  She got some assets and I got some others.  For example, she did not get any of my 401k-type savings, but she got the house. 
She did get a share of my pension through a QDRO, which wound up being a minor issue sometime later as there were some subsequent judicial rulings in the state where we lived that changed the intent we had at the time.  In this case we again later negotiated something, but it could have been difficult.  So, if there is anything to be split up later (like a pension), I would suggest spelling out exactly how they are to be split.
hope everything goes as stress-free as humanly possible with your personal situation. I agree with tbcg12 that the mediation approach can be much peaceful under such circumstances, especially when both parties can agree upon a competent mediator they can trust. This had been true for both me and my spouse (we both were married before and went thru' divorce, before meeting each other). On the other hand, I also know a couple of my friends who chose to pursue the "let the lawyers negotiate" course and both parties ending up with less, and a much worse post-divorce trauma/experience.

A few resources in case you wanted to familiarize with some basics before getting professional advice:



I went through a divorce and the assets had to be divided more or less equally, but not half of each individual asset. So if you can combine other assets that have a value equal to the account, she gets that, you get the account, for example.
Another factor to consider, social security.  If married (10?) years, you each qualify for spousal social security income benefits. Survivor benefits kick in at first death and can leave the survivor with your full social security income monthly payment.  Her spousal social security income is effected by your benefit date so these are 'assets' for you to negotiate as well.
My understanding

A former spouse can make a claim for spousal benefits as long as they do not remarry. This claim by the former spouse in no way impacts the benefits to which the other spouse is entitled.

I would probably ignore it in dividing assets.

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)