In a divorce proceeding, the court will divide the parties’ marital property and debts in a process called “equitable distribution.” The court starts with the presumption that property should be divided equally, but it may adjust the distribution based on various factors including (i) the relative economic circumstances of the parties, (ii) any interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities, and (iii) the intentional waste or destruction of assets.
Retirement accounts require special attention during the equitable distribution process. George Saenz at Fox Business News discusses this:
Not only are you getting separated from your spouse, but also your money. An individual retirement account, or IRA, belongs to the spouse that established it. You generally cannot transfer money from one spouse’s IRA to the other spouse’s account. An exception exists in the case of a divorce.