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Retirement Accounts

Protecting Your Retirement Through Divorce

For many people, their retirement assets and investment securities are among their largest assets and they depend on this money to secure their retirement. Some people are surprised to find out that Wisconsin’s community property law considers retirement accounts marital property.

At Brazil & Benske, LLC, our attorneys have been guiding people through the complex process of dividing their assets, including retirement accounts, since 1993. Our attorneys can explain how the law will likely apply in your situation and advocate for the best possible outcome on your behalf.

What Qualifies As A Retirement Asset?

Retirement assets include more than just a 401(k), and different assets are divided in their own way. The following is an overview of assets you or your former spouse may have:

  • IRAs: Traditional individual retirement accounts are often personal investments not acquired through an employer. The court divides IRAs using the "transfer incident to divorce" process. That means the judge signs an order to split the plan at the same time as the divorce.
  • Pension plans: Some employers, especially in the public sphere, still contribute to a pension plan. You do not have your own account with a set dollar amount in these plans, so they often require professional help to assign a value.
  • 401(k) or 403(b): These are the most common types of employer-sponsored retirement accounts. They require a process called a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) for the nonaccount owner spouse to receive benefits from the account. A judge often signs the QDRO after the divorce is finalized because it is based on the divorce order.
  • Other investments and securities: Investments such as stocks and bonds can be divided a couple of ways, depending on preference and what you agree to.

These accounts can reach quite high values and become complicated to calculate and divide. Entrust this process to a lawyer experienced in high-asset divorces.

Exceptions To An Equal Split

To be divided in your divorce, the property must qualify as marital property. If you established a retirement account before the marriage and added no money to it during the marriage, there may be an argument for a deviation from a 50-50 split.

Discuss Your Assets With An Attorney Today

We are happy to review your assets with you and talk through what you can expect regarding property division. Call our Milwaukee office today at 414-939-0468 or send us an online message to schedule a free initial consultation.