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Retirement accounts and South Carolina divorce

On Behalf of | Jan 21, 2022 | Divorce

When couples divorce in South Carolina, one of the most critical decisions they have to make is dividing their retirement benefits. There are several factors that the court will consider. Keep reading to find out more.

South Carolina divorce

When divorcing in South Carolina, there are two things you should know. First, according to family law, you can end your marriage on grounds like physical cruelty, desertion for over a year, adultery, habitual drunkenness, and no-fault (irreconcilable differences). Secondly, South Carolina is not a community property state: Your assets and debts will be divided in a way that the court considers to be fair and equitable.

Factors considered when dividing retirement accounts

  1. The amount of time a couple has been married – Generally, the longer a couple has been together, the more likely it is that they will share in each other’s retirement benefits.
  2. Each spouse’s contributions to the account – If only one spouse contributed to the retirement account, that spouse is likely to have a greater share of the account. And, if you made most of the contributions before marriage, you will likely keep the account. Contrarily, if you made most of the contributions after marriage, the court will divide the accounts fairly between the spouses.
  3. Contributions as a homemaker – When one of you stayed home to take care of children while the other worked, the stay-at-home spouse may be entitled to a larger portion of the retirement benefits.
  4. The financial situation of each couple – The court will look at whether either spouse needs to use the retirement funds to support themselves during their retirement years. If one spouse does need to use some of these funds for retirement, they could get a substantial share of the retirement account.
  5. Each spouse’s age and health status – Younger spouses are typically given a larger percentage of retirement benefits than older spouses, as they are expected to live longer. Additionally, if one spouse is in poor health, that spouse may be entitled to a larger portion of the benefits.

Some retirement accounts (especially if working in a private sector) will need a court order to divide, like the 401k. Take things slow when it comes to property division because that’s one of the most important parts of a divorce besides custody.