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Getting divorced? Don't forget the pension!

What better time than the week after Valentine's Day to devote a week's worth of blog entries to divorce?  This is the first in a series of blog entries focusing on issues involving divorce and retirement. Enjoy!

Did you know that, aside from real estate, retirement plans are usually the largest asset in a marriage? Yet, retirement plans are often overlooked during divorce, because a divorce can occur years before retirement. When retirement is so far off in the future, couples may neglect to pay the necessary attention to pensions and retirement savings plans when they decide to split up. 

All too often we hear from individuals who remember retirement plans only after their divorces are finalized. As a result, an ex-spouse can lose out on a significant portion of the marital assets. To prevent this from happening to you, we have outlined a few tips that may help if your divorce involves a retirement plan.

Protect your rights: Get representation

If either spouse involved in the divorce has a retirement plan, hire a lawyer! Divorce often takes an emotional toll on all parties involved, so it may help to have an objective third party handle what can be complex discussions. A qualified lawyer, who knows the ins-and-outs of divorce law, particularly as they relate to retirement plans, will protect your interests and can facilitate a smooth division of these assets.

To find a lawyer, use one of the following resources:

▪    The National Pension Lawyers Network, a no-cost referral service that connects workers and retirees with professionals who can help them understand and enforce their pension rights;

▪    LawHelp.org, a web site that helps low and moderate income people find free legal aid programs in their communities, and answers to questions about their legal rights; or

▪    A local bar association, a professional organization in a city or state that will provide referrals to lawyers.  FindLaw.com has a helpful list of state and local bar associations.

Tomorrow's blog entry will focus on how to determe whether pensions and retirement plans are marital property

Read the rest of the blog entries in this series:

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