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Do You Have to Give Half of Your Retirement in a West Virginia Divorce?

Jan 11, 2024 | Divorce

Finances are a major consideration for anyone preparing to file for divorce in West Virginia. If you’ve been married for a long time and hold a retirement account with substantial funds, you may wonder what happens to the money. Does your spouse collect half? 

A West Virginia divorce attorney can help you understand which assets are subject to division, make a financial plan for divorce, and settle arrangements like child and spousal support. 

Are Retirement Accounts Marital Property?

In West Virginia, any assets acquired by either spouse during the marriage usually count as marital property. This includes retirement accounts. Two notable exceptions are inheritance and gifts, provided you keep these separately from marital assets.

Thus, your spouse would usually be entitled to part of your retirement funds during property division. It generally doesn’t matter whether you’re pursuing fault-based or no-fault divorce or a divorce for which your spouse is chiefly responsible for the split-up. 

What if you started saving for retirement before you were married but continued adding to the retirement account during the marriage? In this case, the portion accumulated during the marriage would be marital property, while any funds you put into your retirement account before marriage or after separation are separate property. 

Exceptions to the Marital Property Rule

You may not need to split your retirement account with your spouse if:

  • A prenuptial agreement states that savings or retirement accounts stay in the name of whoever holds them in the event of a divorce. 
  • You and your spouse reach a voluntary agreement. For example, you may decide that each spouse keeps their retirement account or reach another mutually acceptable settlement.

It’s always better to negotiate with your spouse and work out a divorce settlement that covers all the key divorce issues, like property division, spousal support, and a parenting plan. Working with an experienced West Virginia divorce attorney can make communication easier and help overcome disagreements. 

Whatever you do, be transparent about any funds you hold. Failing to disclose information about your assets during a divorce is illegal and could land you in serious trouble. 

Equitable Distribution and Retirement Accounts 

Property division in West Virginia works on the principle of equitable distribution. While this doesn’t necessarily mean a 50-50 split, divorce courts usually try to keep balance when dividing property.

For instance, let’s say you and your spouse jointly own a family home or another type of property worth about as much as the amount in your retirement account. In this case, the court may decide that, rather than splitting the retirement account and the house, your spouse keeps the house while all the retirement funds remain in your name. 

How to Split a Retirement Account

If you must divide a retirement account, the process depends on whether you hold an IRA, a 401(k), or a Pension Plan. In either case, you’ll need to receive a signed divorce order and, in the case of 401(k)s and Pension Plans, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). Your retirement plan provider can give you further instructions on splitting the account. 

Arnold & Bailey: Helping You Navigate Divorce in West Virginia

Ending a marriage is always difficult, but our law firm can help you sail through divorce with the least possible stress and conflict. Our West Virginia divorce lawyers will protect your rights, handle communication with your spouse and their attorney, and work hard to help you reach a fair and equitable divorce settlement.

Call  304-725-2002 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with a West Virginia divorce attorney at Arnold & Bailey.