You’ll have to make a long list of difficult decisions as you navigate your divorce. A big part of this discussion centers on the division of assets. Retirement assets are often among the most challenging to split, thanks to the immense value they have. Retirement funds have years or even decades left to grow, so you should anticipate some negotiations when it comes to these assets.
If you have an IRA to split or you’re considering using your IRA to pay for your divorce, here are some things to keep in mind. When you’re ready for more personalized advice regarding your divorce, call Pence Law Firm at 304-345-7250 to set up a consultation.
Using Your IRA to Pay for Divorce
Some people ask this question because they’re looking for a way to pay for their divorce attorney and other fees. It can be tough when you don’t have much in the way of liquid assets—going from one household to two at the same time you’re going from two incomes to one is a huge financial change. However, you may want to explore other options before tapping into your retirement accounts.
If you are not at least 59 1/2 years old at the time you withdraw from your IRA, it will be considered an early withdrawal. That means you’ll need to pay taxes on the withdrawn amount and a 10% penalty.
That’s a huge loss for your IRA, especially if your IRA isn’t large to begin with—those fees and taxes could wipe out years of gains. On top of that, withdrawing from your IRA to pay for your divorce could complicate the division of assets. There’s a good chance that your IRA will be considered a marital asset and need to be divided accordingly. You may then need to give your ex a greater share of what remains of your IRA to make up for the amount you already withdrew.
Of course, there are cases where you truly have no other option. Even if it means losing some of the value of your IRA, it may be worth cashing out part of it if you have an emergency or have no other funds available.
Dividing Your IRA as Part of Divorce
Like many other states, West Virginia is an equitable distribution state. The assets accrued during the marriage are to be divided in a way that is fair and equitable, which doesn’t necessarily mean splitting things up 50/50. If the division of assets involves transferring part or all of your IRA to your ex-spouse, there are ways to do it that save you from the penalties described above. You don’t want to cash out what you owe and just hand it over. You’ll incur the same taxes and fees we talked about earlier.
The right way to handle the transfer of assets is with a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. This allows you to transfer retirement funds and certain other assets without taxes or penalties. The person receiving the funds must either transfer them into their own IRA or another qualified retirement fund or risk paying taxes and penalties on what they withdrew. To transfer assets using a QDRO, the details of your division of assets must be outlined in your divorce decree. These aren’t agreements or arrangements you want to make under the table—everything must be done legally and via legally binding agreements.
Factors to Consider
If you will be transferring part or all of your IRA as part of your divorce agreement, there are some factors to consider. First, think about meeting with a financial professional to account for the amount you’re losing. You may need to change your saving or investing strategy to get back on track with your retirement goals. Second, consider alternatives—you may be able to give your spouse another asset of equal value in exchange for keeping your IRA. It all depends on how flexible you are with your retirement accounts.
Discuss Your Legal Options with Pence Law Firm
When you’re facing divorce in Charleston, it’s important to have a strong legal team on your side. Pence Law Firm is here to support you every step of the way. Schedule your free consultation now by calling us at 304-345-7250 or reaching out online.