Can you keep your retirement account after a divorce?

Going through a divorce often means fighting tooth and nail to retain as much of your personal wealth as possible. People will fight over any assets in a divorce, but the more valuable possessions are the ones that often inspire the most calamitous court battles. 

Other than your marital home, it is likely that your retirement account is the most valuable single asset you own. As someone going through a Washington divorce, you may find yourself wondering if you actually have to share your retirement fund or pension with your spouse, especially if their name isn’t on the account and they never contributed to the fund.

Did you take steps to protect your retirement account prior to marriage?

The easiest way to know if you can retain your entire retirement account in a divorce is to review any prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. If you earmarked your retirement account as your separate property, the courts may uphold that during the property division process. 

Otherwise, the courts will likely expect you to report your retirement account, and some of the balance will be subject to division as the divorce proceeds.

How much of your retirement account is vulnerable to division?

Determining how much of your retirement account is separate property and how much is marital property will give you a good idea of what the Washington courts will do in your divorce. Given that Washington is a community property state, anything you earn during your marriage belongs to you and your spouse, even if they never directly contribute to your household finances. 

Any amount you contributed prior to marriage will likely remain your separate property. However, the amount you accrued during the marriage, including interest and employer-matching amounts, will likely get split by the courts as the divorce proceeds.

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