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What does Virginia law say about retirement funds and divorce?

It's not uncommon for many Virginia couples to plan for their golden years by opening up different kinds of retirement accounts. If they're fortunate their employer will also contribute a certain specified percentage to their accounts. But, what happens to these accounts if the couple decides to get divorced?

The law in the state of Virginia is clear on retirement plans and divorce. According to Virginia state code, spouses are entitled to a portion of their partner's pension plan or retirement account if they decide to get a divorce. This is known as the marital share of a retirement account and it begins to accrue from the day the couple gets married and ends on the day of their final separation. According to the state each spouse is entitled to up to 50 percent of the account. But since Virginia is an equitable distribution state, a divorcing spouse may not get exactly 50 percent of that account's value. That's because a court will decide what a fair distribution is.

If each of the spouses has retirement assets, then each of them is eligible to receive a portion of their spouse's benefits. A court will look at the value of each account and if there is a significant difference in the monetary value of the accounts, the court will look at the difference and divide that between the two spouses. For instance, if one spouse's retirement account is valued at $200,000 and the other spouse's account is valued at $150,000, there is difference of $50,000. The court will then take that $50,000 and give half of it to each spouse.

Dividing retirement accounts after someone gets divorced can become more complicated. However, any Virginia resident who is seeking a divorce may want to speak with a divorce attorney in order to learn more information about retirement accounts and Virginia law.

Source:, "Virginia retirement funds and a divorced spouse's rights," Accessed June 18, 2016

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