High-net-worth-individuals (HNWIs) going through a divorce are likely not surprised to learn that cases involving high assets can get complicated. The substantial amount of assets involved in high-net-worth divorces can require a longer period to resolve and may call for additional support from professionals, such as financial advisors to forensic accountants. 

Matters may even become more complex when you factor in other investments such as retirement accounts. As a divorce gets underway, many clients mistakenly believe that when matters of retirement accounts arise, the focus should be on protecting assets from your spouse. 

However, three parties are involved within the scope of retirement —you, your spouse, and the government. If the HNWI is a business owner, other parties may also be involved.

A client’s spouse is generally entitled to retirement accounts if no official documentation exists or says otherwise.

If you are a high-net-worth-individual in the midst of a divorce and are looking to protect your retirement accounts, review the following guidelines to potentially save millions. 

Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts Through a Divorce

When considering your retirement accounts, it’s important to remember these are not fixed entities. They will continue to grow well after divorce papers are signed and the process is finalized. 

When a divorce occurs, a client will likely have to pay their spouse a portion of the retirement accounts, as well as any future pensions. The goal of any high-net-worth-individual should be to minimize the effect of the divorce on the value of the retirement accounts and to follow professional recommendations to keep it secure into the future. 

Become Well-Informed About the Rules of Your Retirement Accounts 

One of the challenges of a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) is that each retirement account has different rules. Each IRA, 401(k), Roth, 403 (b), and the companies managing these and other types of accounts come with their own set of rules. 

To create an enforceable QDRO, learn more about the rules of your retirement accounts and the requirements for following them. 

Take Inventory of Your Assets and Your Debt

Know every asset in your name beyond money and retirement accounts. The oversimplified reality of divorce is that assets can be divided 50/50. The terms of divorce may be negotiated, and having a clear picture of all assets makes it easier to decide who is entitled to what beyond cash.

 When an individual has assets such as houses, cars, businesses, artwork, etc., they can broaden the scope negotiating process by focusing beyond solely on one element, such as retirement accounts. In the same manner, you’ll want to know the amount of debt owed, because what you owe, your spouse also owes. 

Debt and assets are both shared in marriage. You can protect your retirement accounts by knowing what kinds of debt you and your spouse owe; this way, you can avoid having to take money against your retirement goals. 

It’s best to have all debt laid out ahead of a divorce in order to negotiate during the settlement process. 

Don’t Leave Your Future to Chance, Fight for Your Rights

It’s easy to see how a high asset divorce may become overwhelming. The stakes are higher when a greater amount of assets are involved, and protecting your retirement accounts is only one aspect of a divorce.

The Law Offices of Douglas Ray York offers relentless legal representation to high-asset clients ready to fight for what is theirs. 


The Law Offices of Douglas Ray York, P.C.: High-asset divorce attorneys fighting to protect your assets and your future.