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What paperwork do I need to file to receive my half of 401K post divorce? Do I need a lawyer for this?

I recently finalized my divorce from my husband of 14 years. When we separated, I left the home to escape abuse. I now am staying with family, but need to find someplace for myself and my children. While I know that cashing out the 401K is discouraged, in my case it is absolutely necessary. What paperwork do I need to file in order to receive my portion of the 401 K and is this something that I will HAVE to have a lawyer take care of for me or is there some way I can do it myself? I've just given birth and do not have an income currently to pay a lawyer.

Oct 29, 2014 by Hondrea from Fort Worth, TX in  |  Flag
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John Essigman Level 17

Hi Hondrea,

Very sorry to hear about your divorce… I know that this is a painful time for you and wishing you and your family a speedy recovery.

You are not clear if the 401(k) belongs to you or your former husband. In either case, call the custodian and ask what they need from you as they all have varying requirements.

If the 401(k) is in your name, it is generally a very simple process to request a distribution. If the account is you your ex-husbands name you will likely need a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. A QDRO is usually established as part of the divorce judgment or decree when assets are divided. Although the process varies, many 401(k) providers will ask you to establish an account with them. They will then use the QDRO to transfer the required amounts from your former spouses account into your account. At that point you can then request a distribution from your own account.

A QDRO may be available outside of a divorce decree given your states spousal support, child support, and community property laws. I am not qualified to offer legal advice but you can contact your states Attorney General’s office or the Department of Social Services for assistance.

Comment   |  Flag   |  Oct 29, 2014 from Cleveland, GA

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