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What happens to retirement accounts in a divorce?

On Behalf of | Jan 24, 2024 | Divorce |

Divorce is a complex process, and when it comes to separating assets, retirement accounts often take center stage. In Illinois, the handling of retirement accounts during divorce involves navigating specific regulations and considerations.

It begins with understanding the general distribution of assets in a divorce and then learning about the specific rules for retirement accounts.

Equitable distribution rule

Illinois follows the principle of equitable distribution, meaning that the law requires dividing marital assets fairly but not necessarily equally between spouses. Marital assets are those a couple acquired during the marriage. Since retirement savings accumulated during this time, they are subject to division.

Methods of division

One common approach to dividing retirement accounts is the tracing method. This involves identifying the portion of a retirement account that is marital property and subject to division. In other words, the law would require dividing contributions made to the account during the marriage. However, the law would exclude contributions made before or after the marriage.

In some cases, spouses may agree on how to divide retirement accounts through negotiations or mediation. This collaborative approach allows couples to have more control over the outcome.


The court considers various factors when determining the division of retirement accounts. The court may look at the length of the marriage. It often will consider each spouse’s financial contribution and their overall financial situations. This ensures a fair and reasonable distribution that considers the unique circumstances of each divorce case.

Navigating the division of retirement accounts in an Illinois divorce involves understanding the main concepts involved. By being aware of these aspects, divorcing couples can ensure a smoother division while safeguarding their financial well-being.