Divorcing at a later age is very different than going through a divorce after just a few years of marriage. When you divorce later in life, you probably won’t have to worry about child custody like younger couples do, but property division will be extremely important. 

After years of marriage, you and your spouse have likely accummulated a substantial amount of assets. While all of them have some value — whether sentimental or financial — some are more important to protect than others. If you are divorcing close to retirement age, protecting your 401(k) or other retirement accounts should be a priority. 

When dividing a retirement account that you and your spouse have held together, it is important to be very intentional about how you do it. During divorce, the spouse who is not the account holder may have funds from the retirement account allocated to him or her under a qualified domestic relations order. Once that is complete, you can remove funds fee-free one time from your spouse’s retirement account. However, you must be careful when doing so.

When you are dividing assets and finding yourself with less than you are used to, it is tempting to withdraw a lot of money from your spouse’s retirement account. And with no fees, why not? While you want to pull out what you will need during the divorce, going overboard can leave you scrambling to rebuild your nest egg when you get closer to retirement.

Dividing assets after decades of marriage is no easy task, but it is extremely important to make sure your needs are protected in the process. To help ensure this happens, it is a good idea to work with an attorney.

Source: New York Daily News, “Money Pros: Don’t let divorce rip apart your retirement nest egg,” Marilyn Timbers, Aug. 14, 2013