People sometimes expect to be able to keep all of their retirement savings after a divorce because they earned them exclusively. However, retirement savings may be subject to division. When a court handling a divorce evaluates how to divide a retirement account, the first step in its analysis is determining whether the account is marital property. In general, Pennsylvania courts will divide only property that couples acquire during the course of a marriage. It is possible that any savings acquired prior to a marriage will be exempt from distribution, so sometimes courts will divide only part of an account.
Factors to consider
In Pennsylvania, courts use a methodology to divide marital assets such as retirement accounts in a divorce as fairly as possible rather than just splitting everything right down the middle. When deciding what is fair, courts will consider several factors including the length of a marriage as well as each spouse’s individual assets and income.
There can be logistical challenges in dividing retirement savings at the time of a hearing because people may not have ready access to them, or they may forfeit some of the certain accounts’ value by accessing them before they originally planned to. Courts will consider whether it is feasible to access part of an account early and whether it would impose an undue hardship on either party.
It may be wise for couples to try to reach a mutual agreement about retirement accounts. If they are unable to do so, courts will try to reach an outcome that is fair and reasonable for both parties.