In dividing marital property, focus on retirement accounts

The legal act of ending a marriage is the same for all New York couples, even though the details of each divorce are unique to the spouses involved. The same can be said of the intricacies within a divorce; both spouses are dealing with the same set of facts, but the best interests of one party can be vastly different from those of another. Women who are divorcing often have different concerns than their husbands, and should be sure to identify and address those needs during the division of marital property.

The primary example lies in retirement funding. While there are certainly notable exceptions, for the most part, women still earn less than their husbands, and often amass fewer retirement benefits. As a result, older women who move toward divorce have a unique set of needs when dividing marital assets. Unfortunately, many in the legal profession see far too many cases in which wives focus on the wrong set of assets.

Often, the error comes in fighting for the right to keep the family home, while letting retirement savings remain with the husband. This is usually not a good idea, as the value of retirement investments are a far more stable investment than a piece of property can be, especially in times of instability in the real estate market. In addition, the costs of maintaining and ultimately selling a home can make it an even more unbalanced division of assets.

Women should focus on the various retirement assets held within the family, and make savvy decisions on which types of marital property are best suited to meet their long-term financial goals. With the right degree of planning, it is possible to emerge from a New York divorce with a solid financial foundation for the future. For those nearing retirement age, certain assets are worth far more than others, even when the values appear to be similar on paper.

Source: Forbes, “The Big Money Mistake Divorcing Women Make“, Kerry Hannon, July 3, 2014