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When divorcing after 50, retirement accounts are a critical issue

The number of couples getting divorced after age 50 is climbing. According to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research in Ohio, since 1990 the divorce rate for that age group has doubled. For many Colorado spouses who are splitting up after a long marriage, retirement plans may have to be put on hold.

Divorcing later in life can be a traumatic experience. Not only is a long relationship coming to an end, but one's assets are often reduced by the property division, and living alone can be more expensive. And it's often too late to significantly grow a retirement nest egg. A former spouse in this situation needs to make sure they get what they are entitled to in the equitable distribution of property.

For older couples, retirement accounts are often among their most important assets. Splitting a retirement account can be complicated. They are usually divided by means of a qualified domestic relations order, which is a court order specifically designed to divide assets in a retirement plan. The QDRO is submitted to the plan administrator, who must review and approve it before it takes effect. Once effective, the plan assets are divided between the plan participant and the other spouse, and a separate account is created for the other spouse.

Colorado couples over the age of 50 have special concerns that must be addressed in a divorce. Having a divorce lawyer who is familiar with the complexities of splitting retirement plans is critical to getting a fair deal in property division.

Source: New York Times, "Retirement Plans Thrown Into Disarray by a Divorce," Constance Gustke, June 27, 2014

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