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Protecting your retirement plan is important during divorce

One of the things you may fear about your divorce is the possibility of losing your retirement savings. You've saved up for years to make sure you'll have a comfortable retirement, and the idea that your hard work was in vain is almost too much to handle. Fortunately, there are ways that you can protect your retirement.

First, remember that you shouldn't withdraw funds early to pay off your spouse. If you tap into your retirement to pay your spouse his or her portion of the settlement agreement, you'll incur a 10 percent penalty on your withdrawal unless the judge has already ordered you to divide your assets. You'll pay taxes on any withdrawals you make before the age of 59 1/2 as well.

Next, take a look at the kind of retirement plans you have and ways to reduce your losses. You need to know what an equitable distribution of the account is, and to do that, you need to know how much money you'll have after paying taxes on your accounts. Avoid extra taxation by making sure all your assets to be separated are written in your divorce decree as clearly as possible. Remember that Roth IRAs and traditional IRAs can be split among spouses in accordance with a divorce decree as long as it's done within a year of the formal divorce date.

Keep in mind that you may also qualify for Social Security benefits through your spouse's earnings in the future. If you were planning on this for your retirement, remember that you won't be able to qualify for the benefits if you remarry.

These are just a few things to keep in mind when you're trying to protect your future and retirement savings. Make plans to protect your assets now, so you can be prepared in the future.

Source: The Motley Fool, "How to Protect Your Retirement Savings During Divorce," Sarah Szczypinski, Sep. 02, 2017

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