Tips for splitting retirement assets during divorce in Utah

401ks and IRAs play an important part of one's financial portfolio. As a result, these accounts should be addressed during divorce.

Property division is one of the most contentious portions of a divorce. Couples must negotiate the division of every marital asset. This can include the family home, savings accounts, real estate and retirement assets.

Retirement assets can pose unique concerns during divorce. Two retirement assets couples must often address include 401ks and IRAs. This piece will provide some basic insight.

Divorce and retirement assets: Who is entitled to a share?

Divorce is a creature of state law. As such, the local laws apply to the divorce proceeding. This piece applies to divorce in Utah.

In Utah, retirement assets accumulated during the marriage are marital property. This basically means the retirement accounts are subject to division during divorce. If not divided, negotiations will likely include allocation of other assets to make up for the value of the retirement asset.

401k and IRA: What are these accounts and how are they split?

Individuals generally receive 401k retirement accounts from an employer. A second common option used to fund retirement is the individual retirement accounts (IRA). An individual will purchase an IRA and fund it with annual contributions.

Important legal documents: What do I need to make sure there are no surprises after the divorce is finalized?

The division of these assets generally requires a minimum of two documents: a divorce settlement agreement that outlines the split as well as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). A QDRO essentially allows for a non-account owning spouse to receive the benefits within the retirement account. This court order is extremely important in the event the divorce settlement agreement provides a non-account holder, in this case the ex-spouse, to a portion of the retirement account. As noted in a previous piece, the QDRO can serve a number of purposes. The most important is the clear allocation of the retirement asset. The document often only relates to an individual account. As such, more than one QDRO may be required to properly protect your interests.

These are two of the more common types of retirement assets to take into account when going through a divorce. It is extremely important to have all assets accounted for during the property division determination of the divorce proceeding. A failure to do so will likely impact the settlement. Having all assets accounted for and getting the right paperwork to ensure distribution will reduce the risk of any surprises after the divorce is finalized. An attorney experienced in these matters can help guide the process.