The divorce is being called the most expensive divorce in recent history, the divorce of Amazon CEO & Founder, Jeff Bezos and his wife. While his divorce could be expensive, he will financially be able to survive the transition. Some of us are not so lucky.
Divorce is always hard on many levels. One of the things that is most important is the financial split of the couple’s assets. These assets include retirement benefits and investments. Figuring out how benefits should be divided, or if they are even able to be divided, can be a minefield if not navigated properly.
It is often that one of the spouses becomes the couple’s treasurer, but it is important that both partners are aware of the couple’s financial situation. This is especially true when it comes to investments. If one spouse was not as attentive to the tax responsibilities, it could affect the other spouse’s share. If the spouse was deceptive about the couple’s investments, this could make issues between the couple even worse. Hiring a forensic accountant can help find discrepancies or deceptive practices by the responsible spouse.
When it comes to retirement benefits, there are only certain things eligible to be split during a divorce. Those eligible are considered community property, and include things like military pensions, GI Bill benefits, IRAs, employee stock option plans, and 401(k) plans. Benefits that are not considered community property are Social Security benefits, Worker’s compensation, and any military injury compensation. It is often advised that if the spouse’s benefits are sizable that the other spouse should petition to split the benefits. Benefits are usually split by percentage instead of a money value in case the value of some of the benefits fluctuates between the time of evaluation and actual settlement.
There are some other exceptions and considerations when it comes to benefits. For instance, if a spouse invested money or started a 401(k) before the marriage and continued to pay into them during the marriage, the amount invested before the marriage must be deducted from the total amount before any valuation can be made.
When it comes to Social Security benefits, a couple must have been married at least 10 years for one spouse to have a claim to them. However, the claiming spouse cannot have their own Social Security benefit value exceed half of their spouse’s. If there is a possibility that a spouse will have a claim to the other’s Social Security benefits, they may request a delay in proceedings in order to pass the 10 year threshold. If the length of marriage is close to 10 years, the court may issue a continuance. If the spouse with the Social Security benefits dies after the proceedings are over, the surviving former spouse can collect 100 percent of their Social Security.
When married couples split up, the financial quandaries can be messy. Knowing the law, and getting advice from a financial expert is a good idea for both spouses involved. It is beneficial for both spouses to be well aware of the collective financial situation so surprising issues like back taxes or hidden assets can be avoided. Maintaining the financial futures of both former spouses is key to making sure the separation is a clean one with no resentment or animosity between those involved.
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