A Simple 1-2-3 Formula 4 Dividing a Retirement

by | Apr 11, 2013 | Portfolio, Property Issues, Wendy Hernandez Blog

A Simple 1-2-3 Formula 4 Dividing a Retirement

Our Simple 1-2-3 Formula 4 Dividing a Retirement account at divorce will help you gain a very basic understanding of how much of that account belongs to you.

If you are thinking about divorce and want to figure out how much money you might walk away with post-divorce, knowing this formula could be helpful.

Our Simple 1-2-3 Formula is by NO MEANS the whole ball of wax when it comes to dividing a retirement, but it does break down complicated legal concepts into language that is understandable (we hope!). 

The Basic Rule 4 Dividing a Retirement in Phoenix, Arizona


The basic rule is easy to understand:  Any money contributed to the retirement account during your marriage belongs to equally to you and your spouse.  It does not matter that the retirement account is only in one person’s name.  It does not matter if you are the one slaved at work, day in and day out, earning the money.  It does not matter that your spouse sat on his or her fanny at home watching “The Young and the Restless” (my personal favorite) while your nose was at the grindstone.  The court ultimately will divide a retirement equitably based on what  was contributed during the marriage.

So how do you figure out exactly what was contributed during the marriage?

Step 1 

The first thing you must do is determine whether either you or your partner has a pre-marital interest in your respective retirement accounts.  In other words, did either of you contribute money to your own accounts prior to marriage?  If so, rest assured, those contributions will remain the sole and separate property of the contributing individual. Scour your files for a copy of the retirement statement that will show the amount in the account at or near the time of marriage.

Step 2 

The next step is to figure out how much money was contributed to the retirement account by either you or your spouse during the marriage.  Specifically, you will need to obtain a statement of the retirement account that will show how much was in it on or near the date that the Petition for Dissolution was served by the Petitioner upon the Respondent.

Step 3

Once you have these two pieces of information, you are on your way to dividing a retirement account at divorce.  At the most basic level, to determine this amount, you subtract the amount in the account at the time of marriage from the amount in the account on the date of service and divide it by two.  The resulting number is a rough estimate (I repeat — ROUGH ESTIMATE) of the amount you are probably entitled to as part of your divorce settlement.


Depending on the type of retirement account(s) you have and depending upon whether those accounts are tied to the stock market, you may need to take special steps to divide them.  Furthermore, be aware that the amount in in your retirement account(s) could be SIGNIFICANTLY DIFFERENT on the date of division than on the date of service if they are tied to the stock market.

Just because you are now in the know with our Simple 1-2-3 Formula, there is a Step 4 that we ALWAYS recommend prior to dividing a retirement. 

Step 4

KNOW your rights.  PROTECT yourself.   CONSULT with a lawyer BEFORE actually dividing a retirement.

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