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Can property division involve retirement accounts?

Going through a divorce in Maryland can be an immensely emotional and troubling time for anyone. A divorce can take time and can potentially leave both parties bitter and resentful once the process is completed.

One of the most difficult parts of the process for older couples is the division of property. Most of the time, each party within a divorce wants to leave the marriage with as much as they can of what they feel they are entitled to, particularly as the splitting couple nears retirement. Many experts are seeing the divorce rate among older people increase, which means property division arguments over assets like business accounts and retirement accounts are increasing as well.

When approaching a discussion about the division of property in a divorce, people with these types of assets should be prepared to deal with some hard decisions. But they can be more prepared if they seek out an advocate to fight on their behalf, as well as consider a few suggestions that may make the process easier.

This problem should be approached with a well-conceived financial plan and thoughts of long term financial situations. This means calculating out the necessary expenses and costs, post-divorce, for both parties. A budget can be a useful tool as well, as it can allow a full-spread look at joint expenses that will ultimately become individual expenses.

Next, each party should approach the property division knowing exactly what they are entitled to. The best starting point is for each party to consider themselves entitled to half of each account, and then work from there. However, in Maryland, the law calls for an “equitable division” of marital property, which means that each individual asset will not always be split evenly.

Lastly, and most ominously, is the consideration that the opposing party, your soon-to-be ex-spouse, may take out loans against assets during the divorce process, or withdrawn funds from accounts without permission. It is a good idea to protect yourself from this type of behavior if at all possible during the process. An advocate can walk a divorcing party through the appropriate measures.

The division of property can be the most contentious part of a divorce, particular among those older couples with more significant assets that are preparing for retirement. Being prepared for frank discussions about splitting assets is probably the best way to ensure that the process goes smoothly.

Source: Fox Business, “Graying divorces: what boomers need to know to protect their assets,” Andrea Murad, May 25, 2012

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