Long-married couples with significant assets have more to lose in a divorce than those who were only married a short while and have few assets or resources. That's why it is imperative that both parties retain their own Seymour family law attorneys who can fight to make sure their clients receive all that they are legally entitled to have.
When it comes to retirement accounts, the working spouse is sometimes surprised to learn that their soon-to-be ex is entitled to a large chunk of the proceeds. This is true whether or not the spouse ever worked outside of the house or not.
Dividing 401(k) assets in Tennessee is done under the rules of equitable distribution. The court will allocate the 401(k) funds fairly to both spouses, which may or may not mean a 50-50 split. If the working spouse accrued some of the 401(k) funds prior to the marriage, that portion is considered separate and not marital property, and thus is not subject to division.
When splitting the retirement accounts, the courts consider multiple factors. These typically include how long the couple was married, the financial circumstances of both parties and the amount of funds in the retirement account(s).
If the couple independently reaches accord on these matters, then the court does not need to intervene. However, the divorce judgment will be insufficient for the plan administrator to disburse funds to the working spouse's ex.
What you need is a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). After the judge signs the QDRO, it must then be submitted to the plan administrator for approval. Only then can funds be transferred from the retirement accounts.
If you're uncertain what you need in order to obtain a proper share of the assets you and your spouse have acquired together, your attorney can help guide you.