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Older couples in Massachusetts who are considering divorce might feel they are in step with the rest of the nation. Overall, the U.S. divorce rate since the 1990’s has just about doubled for individuals aged 50 and older, as reported by Pew Research.

Divorce may affect a 50+ couple’s plans for retirement, especially if one spouse relied upon a working spouse for the majority of his or her income. A spouse has the legal right to request alimony payments or financial support, and a lump-sum retirement fund payout may help an ex-spouse to move forward in a new life.

Dividing marital property in Massachusetts

Both individuals have a legal right to claim assets and property acquired during a couple’s marriage. Under the Bay State’s divorce laws, the courts generally split marital property by fairness. Spouses may negotiate between themselves how to divide their property or they may rely on what a judge considers fair. The law recognizes inheritances and gifts, however, as a spouse’s individual property and not subject to division.

Requesting proceeds from a spouse’s retirement plan

Because the law classifies a retirement plan such as a 401(k) or a pension fund as a couple’s marital property, each spouse has a legal right to its proceeds. A nonworking spouse may request a payout of either a percentage of the assets or a lump sum from the plan, as reported by Kiplinger magazine. The payout must fall under the plan’s guidelines and will also require a qualified domestic relations order. If a working spouse acquired the account before the marriage, however, the value accumulated during that time is his or her own separate property.