How are retirement accounts divided during divorce?
While I am not licensed to practice law in your state and cannot give you legal advice, I can give some general observations on this issue based on the jurisdiction where I practice.
In many states, a court that grants a divorce has the authority to determine which property is marital property, to assess its value, to order the transfer of ownership of certain categories of property, and to grant a monetary award to the adjust the equities and rights of the parties. Among the property rights that may be allocated as part of such a proceeding is spouse’s interest in a retirement plan earned during the course of the marriage.
Generally, when dividing property at the time of divorce, the court is required to distribute all property in a just and equitable manner. Whether you will be able to retain your retirement depends upon numerous factors, not least of which include, the property awarded to your wife and to you, the financial resources available to each party, and your incomes.
However, in lieu of these judicial determinations, a divorcing couple may enter into an agreement for the allocation of their property, including retirement plan benefits. This option may assist you in protecting your retirement account.