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Will a judge force me to split my 401(k) with my ex?

In preparing for a divorce, especially in a high-asset situation, tensions run relatively high. Not only do you own several properties, but you also have a sizeable investment account with your employer. You planned on that 401(k) getting you through retirement and into old age, but now that divorce is imminent, you need to formulate a new plan.

During a divorce, it is normal for couples to split all investments and cash, including 401(k) accounts. Circumstances may dictate just what the split looks like, but you may want to prepare yourself for the reality that you will need to share a portion of that retirement account.

Fair and equitable distribution

In Florida, divorce courts believe in "fair and equitable" distribution. This not only applies to cash accounts and property, but all income sources and assets including retirement. If you and your spouse have relatively the same amount of money saved in separate 401(k) accounts, there is a good chance you will both get to keep them intact. However, if one spouse worked less, say due to staying home and raising children, then the other's retirement account may wind up getting split.

Factors which determine the split

Your attorney is better able to advise you on how the items in your divorce will likely get split. Remember, it is not only positive cash flow that gets split, but debt as well.  Again, each party is responsible for a proportionate share of the debt. Factors such as the number of years worked, contributions to the home, such as childcare and overall ability to make more money, may weigh in the decision on how a split will occur.

Splitting up after years of wedlock is never an easy step. You may not have millions in the bank, but what you have is vital to your overall life plan. Understand that both spouses make sacrifices during the divorce and that compromising ahead of a final court date may work out more in your favor.

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