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Divorce and retirement benefits in Alaska

When a couple gets divorced, any retirement account that one spouse has may be considered marital property. If that is the case, the first thing that needs to happen is that assets inside an IRA or 401k need to be given a monetary value. In most cases, assets inside of a tax-advantaged retirement account will be worth less than other accounts because an individual may need to pay penalties and taxes to get access to that money.

It is important to note that if a spouse started saving for retirement prior to the marriage, any money in the account before the marriage is often considered separate property. The same may be true if a spouse contributes to a retirement account after the divorce is finalized. Therefore, it may take time to determine the portion of the account that was accrued during the marriage for property division purposes.

If the account is going to be divided between the two parties, it is best to use percentages instead of a predetermined amount. This is because the market could take a tumble and reduce the amount left over after the other party gets their predetermined share. It is important to note that unless the couple has been married for 10 years or longer, a spouse may not be entitled to a portion of a former spouse's Social Security benefits.

Talking to a family law attorney may help a couple who is trying to settle their divorce is a timely and equitable manner. An attorney may be able to act as a mediator between the two parties to finalize the divorce in an amicable manner. However, if necessary, an attorney may be able to represent one spouse or the other in court to get a favorable settlement ruling from a judge.

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