Health & Fitness

Understanding Retirement Accounts and Divorce in Boston

When a couple plans their retirement together, merging several retirement funds, the question of how these assets would be shared in the event of a divorce arises. In Massachusetts, the equitable distribution strategy is frequently used by judges, which may include directing one spouse to transfer a portion of their retirement funds, such as an IRA or 401(k), to the other spouse as part of the divorce settlement, assuring a fair allocation of assets and obligations. Reach out to a Newburyport divorce attorney for further information.

Equitable distribution:

To distribute marital assets equally, Massachusetts divorce courts apply the “equitable distribution” technique, which includes retirement accounts such as pensions, 401(k)s, IRAs, and other investments.

While “fair” does not always imply “equal,” judges have significant discretion in determining how to divide these assets based on the individual circumstances of the parties involved, guaranteeing an equitable conclusion in divorce settlements.

Alex and Taylor married at the age of 30 with no retirement savings. They chose to divorce after 15 years of marriage. Alex has a 401(k) worth $400,000 during the divorce procedures, whereas Taylor’s 401(k) is at $600,000. 

With a $200,000 gap in their retirement savings, a judge is likely to order Taylor to transfer $100,000 from their account to Alex’s account, bringing their retirement assets to $500,000 each.

Prenuptial or postnuptial agreements:

Couples can utilize prenuptial or postnuptial agreements to protect retirement accounts from being shared in a divorce. Both prenuptial and postnuptial agreements might mandate that retirement savings accrued during the marriage remain separate property in the event of divorce. To be enforceable, these agreements must be declared “fair and reasonable” by a judge both at the time of establishment and at the time of divorce, with an emphasis on equitable distribution to avoid one-sided asset allocation.

Transfer retirement fund:

To avoid having retirement funds divided in a divorce, a spouse facing a potential transfer of retirement funds can exchange them for other assets such as investments, cash, or home equity. However, it is critical to guarantee that the assets traded are of equal worth, and expert appraisals may be required, taking into account issues such as taxation, appreciation, and depreciation. 

Final thoughts:

A primary goal in divorce cases is to properly split marital assets, which often necessitates the estimation of their current value by experts such as business valuation specialists, forensic accountants, and real estate appraisers.

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