You and your spouse are splitting up. Your spouse doesn't work, but you've been saving money for retirement for all 10 years that you've been together. Does your spouse have a claim to that money?
This question has been posed to the Supreme Court of Ohio. The ruling established that marital assets include any benefits that either one of you accumulated while you were a couple.
It doesn't matter than you are the only one working and so all of the money is yours. That money belongs to both of you. Those benefits belong to both of you. They have to be divided, just like you'll divide the proceeds if you sell your home or the cash sitting in your bank account.
For instance, maybe you've been putting away a portion of your paycheck every two weeks. It's automatically taken out and dropped into an account by your employer. The company then matches that money. You're not ready to retire yet, but you've put $150,000 in the account in the past decade. That means you have a total of $300,000. If you were married the entire time that was building up, your spouse may have as much of a claim as you do. You're not going to get the full $300,000.
The money has to be divided fairly. This may not mean equally. Ohio requires an equitable division. While that could mean you get $150,000 and so does your spouse, other factors -- employment, additional assets, etc -- could shift things so that you or your spouse get a slightly larger portion.
Your retirement account is a huge part of your estate planning. It's an incredibly valuable asset and determines how other assets may be left to your heirs, how medical bills will be paid, and much more. Be sure you know what is legally required and how the divorce is going to change your estate planning tactics.
Source: Ohio State Bar, "Retirement Benefits Are Divided at Divorce," accessed Oct. 12, 2017