You’ve worked hard your whole life to get where you are, and you deserve every bit of retirement you have coming. But when you file for divorce, the courts could throw your retirement plans on the chopping block with all your other shared property.

Missouri looks to split assets equitably, as opposed to right down the middle. This means the court will attempt to determine what is separate and shared property, then analyze the needs and contributions of you and your partner. The courts could then divide your property accordingly, including your retirement plans.

Planning a split

Those plans, like a 401(k), pension or IRA, could be considered a shared asset, in part or whole, depending on your specific circumstances. A judge could look differently on plans that began before marriage, grew during your time together or got a boost after you filed for divorce when making judgment.

Distribution solution

Once the court has made determinations regarding your assets, they may issue a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) to an administrator of your retirement plans. This outlines how to handle your retirement accounts:

  • Shared interest: A shared interest will likely continue to tie you and your spouse together, so far as you’ll begin receiving your share of the benefits at the same time. Two checks from the same account will probably provide your pay, with benefits beginning when you retire and possibly ending when you pass on.
  • Separate interest: With separate accounts comes separate benefits. There could be some flexibility on when the benefits begin, and your partner may not need to wait until you retire. This can have effects on things like duration of pay and amount, possibly depending on life expectancy.
  • Qualified joint and survivor annuity: The court may go the way of granting survivorship rights. In the event of your passing, this system will likely continue to provide pay to your partner. The terms of the compensation may differ from case to case but will likely involve a lessened monthly payment than what you receive.

Your plans could see a significant change after a divorce. Understanding the system could go a long way to help make sure you get what you believe to be a fair share of your hard-earned retirement benefits.