To plan is to prepare; however, there are many events California residents are not prepared to go through simply because they do not want to consider a negative event impacting their life. While many put forth the effort to plan for a wedding, union, family and retirement, some do not prepare for a divorce. Because the rate of marriages ending through divorce remains around 50%, this is a reality that spouses of any age or at any length of marriage could experience. And when it comes to older couples, it is imperative to consider how dissolution could influence one’s retirement plans.

Because married couples plan to live their lives together, they also presume they will spend their retirement together. Planning one’s retirement to include a spouse is common in society; thus, when a couple decides to divorce, this process can be extremely disruptive to his or her retirement plans.

Whether one is decades away from retirement, about to retire or already retired, there are valuable steps one can take to retool his or her retirement plan during or after a divorce. First, one should make sure they have a proper Qualified Domestic Relations Order. The only way a nonparticipant can get a payout from a 401(k), pension or other similar accounts is by having a QDRO. Next, one should understand spousal benefits for Social Security. If one was married for 10 years and did not remarry, he or she is entitled to Social Security benefits of a former spouse.

Other important steps include creating an inventory of investments and assets, updating your retirement plan to reflect your single status, begin contributing to you own savings as soon as possible and adjust your lifestyle in order to accommodate any impacts divorce will have on your retirement. A divorce could cause one to retire later or lose out on funds because a former spouse is entitled to a portion due to the divorce decree.

Even when it is agreed to and fairly amicable, divorce can be a messy, difficult and emotional time. Thus, it is important for spouses to fully understand the divorce process and how best to move forward through it. A legal professional not only helps a spouse address divorce issues but also assist them with potential post-divorce implications, especially when it comes to one’s retirement.