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Dividing retirement accounts following divorce in California

It can be challenging to prepare for certain changes in life, such as the end of a marriage. For many individuals in California, protecting their financial futures throughout divorce may be essential. Those who have spent years planning and saving for retirement might also face additional concerns, and they may find it advisable to seek guidance on how to divide these assets properly and avoid potentially devastating consequences.

Following the end of a marriage, a person may be eager to split up assets in accordance with the divorce decree and move on with life. However, dividing certain assets, such as retirement accounts, can be a complex process. With certain accounts, one must obtain a qualified domestic relations order prior to splitting up retirement assets, and even with accounts that don't require this document, the presence of a divorce decree may be necessary.

Attempting to divide retirement accounts without the necessary documents can lead to substantial amounts in tax fees and penalties. In addition, a person might find it advisable to ensure the process is finalized prior to making changes to information on these accounts. While one may wish to update beneficiaries following divorce, there can be consequences to doing so prior to obtaining a divorce decree.

With the potential importance one may place on protecting retirement assets, a person will likely wish to avoid any unnecessary consequences when dividing these assets after divorce. For guidance on how best to approach the situation, a person in California could find it beneficial to consult with a family law attorney. An attorney can assist a client in pursuing the most favorable outcome possible and provide guidance on how to avoid undesirable consequences when splitting retirement accounts.

Source:, "How to avoid mistakes dividing up 401(k) assets in divorce", Sarah O'Brien, March 7, 2018

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