Divorce is an unavoidable part of life for some people, but it does not have to be a wholly negative experience. While many California couples understandably struggle with the emotional aspect of ending a marriage, a measured and careful approach to property division can make the legal side of things somewhat easier. However, even those individuals who are focused on preserving their financial stability after divorce can overlook something very important — retirement.

Whether retirement is a matter of years or decades away, the importance of planning cannot be understated. Divorce can impact a person’s retirement readiness, but there are ways to minimize this impact while also preserving other measures of financial stability. A good first step for anyone is to understand the types of retirement accounts they have and how they are handled. For example, while an individual retirement account — an IRA — only lists one person’s name, the contents may still be considered marital property.

The same goes for pensions. While one spouse might have earned a pension at his or her job, like income, if it was earned during the course of the marriage then it is usually considered community property and as such subject to division during divorce proceedings. Since things like IRAs, pensions and even Social Security benefits all play a role in retirement planning, understanding how they work and are divided is essential to securing a better retirement.

Lastly, it is not enough to simply withdraw half of the retirement funds from any given account and move forward from there. These types of withdrawals often come with hefty taxes and penalties, which a Qualified Domestic Relations Order can circumvent. A QDRO is a legal document that allows a person to make withdrawals without losing a large chunk of their savings to penalties. These and other matters should generally be thoroughly addressed during property division, but doing so alone can be overwhelming and confusing. An experienced California attorney may be able to provide more thorough information regarding retirement and financial security after divorce.