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Who gets the retirement account(s) when you divorce?

If you and your spouse plan to divorce in Ohio and either or both of you have a retirement plan where you work, these plans may well make up a major portion of your marital assets., an investment strategy site, explains that per Ohio law, the portion of your retirement benefits that you earned while married makes up the marital portion of your plan. That is the portion to which your spouse may or may not be entitled.

All divorcing couples can come up with their own property settlement agreements, whether or not they involve any retirement plans. While a judge must approve any agreement you and your spouse arrive at, judges seldom disapprove these plans unless one party is grossly disadvantaged.

Dividing a 401(k)

A 401(k) or other defined benefit plan is the easiest of all to divide. Why? Because not only can you determine its value through the statements you and your spouse receive from your respective employers, but it also does not require a special divorce document.


Virtually all other types of retirement plans require the services of a CPA or other qualified financial expert to deal with the complex calculations required to divide them during a divorce. In addition, they require either a qualified domestic relations order, a/k/a QDRO, or a qualified Illinois domestic relations order, a/k/a QIDRO. The latter requirement applies to spouses who work for the State of Illinois or who are employed by it as a teacher, firefighter or law enforcement officer.

If you and your spouse are doing your own property settlement agreement, be sure to include the appropriate QDRO or QIDRO if your plan and/or employment require you to do so. Depending on the retirement plan you have, you may need to submit your QDRO/QIDRO to your plan administrator for approval prior to submitting it to the judge. Once the judge approves it, you should return a copy of it, plus a copy of your divorce decree, to your plan administrator.

Ways around the QDRO/QIDRO requirement

If you and your spouse accumulated enough high-value marital assets during your marriage, it is possible that you can trade these other assets to each other in exchange for the respective retirement account portions to which you would otherwise be entitled. This is general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice.

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