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How Getting Divorced Affects Your Roth IRA

Getting Divorced Doesn’t Affect Your Roth IRA

If you got divorced this year, you might wonder how that will affect your Roth individual retirement account (Roth IRA) and that of your partner. The simple answer? It won’t.

The (slightly) more complicated answer is that you will now be filing taxes as a single person (unless you get remarried, of course), but your contribution limits for Roth IRAs will stay the same. The limit is $6,000 per year each in 2021 and 2022 for those under age 50, or $7,000 for those 50 and older.

The only slight complication is that you’ll need to recheck the Roth IRA income limits, because if you were the primary earner in your marriage, then you now might be above the individual income limit.

In this article, we’ll show you how to work that out.

Key Takeaways

  • Usually, getting divorced does not affect your Roth individual retirement accounts (Roth IRAs). You can keep contributing as you were before.
  • The exception is if your individual income is now higher than the income limits for Roth IRAs set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
  • You can’t get around this by contributing before your divorce date, because it’s your status on the last day of the tax year that counts.

Check the Roth IRA Income Limits

Normally, getting divorced won’t affect your Roth IRA. If you were both making regular contributions before you got divorced, you can both keep doing so afterward. The only complicating factor is that you’ll need to check the Roth IRA income limits for your filing status. Here are the limits:

Do You Qualify for a Roth IRA?
Category Income Range for 2021 Contribution Income Range for 2022 Contribution
Married and filing a joint tax return or qualifying widow(er) Full: Less than $198,000 Partial: From $198,000 to less than $208,000  Full: Less than $204,000 Partial: From $204,000 to less than $214,000 
Married, filing a separate tax return, lived with spouse at any time during the year Full: $0 Partial: Less than $10,000  Full: $0 Partial: Less than $10,000
Single, head of household, or married filing separately without living with spouse at any time during the year Full: Less than $125,000 Partial: From $125,000 to less than $140,000 Full: Less than $129,000 Partial: From $129,000 to less than $144,000 

It’s important to note that it’s your status on the last day of the year—Dec. 31—that counts. So, even if you got divorced on Dec. 30, you will count as divorced as far as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is concerned.

After getting divorced, you should check the single row in the table above. If your individual income (or, more precisely, your modified adjusted gross income, or MAGI) is below the full amount, you can contribute up to 100% of your income or the Roth IRA contribution limit, whichever is less. The contribution limit in both 2021 and 2022 is $6,000 ($7,000 if age 50 or older).

If your income falls within the partial range, subtract your income from the full level and then divide that amount by the phaseout range to determine the percentage of $6,000 (or $7,000) that you are allowed to contribute.

If your individual income is above the full amount for a given year, you will not be able to contribute to your Roth IRA for that year.

Of course, the opposite might be the case as well. It might be that your partner was earning too much to allow either of you to contribute to a Roth IRA when you were married, but you fall below the income limit now that you are divorced. In that case, you should look at whether a Roth IRA is now a good option for you to save for retirement.

Check the Roth IRA contribution limits when you get divorced. Exceeding the contribution limit can cost you a 6% penalty on the excess each year until you rectify the mistake.

Understanding Your Filing Status

If your individual income will be too high to allow you to contribute to your Roth IRA after you get divorced, you might think that you could get around this by contributing money before your divorce is finalized.

That’s not the case, says Gail Rosen, a CPA in Martinsville, N.J. “The allowable contribution is calculated based on your earned income and filing status at the end of the year,” she explains. This means that whatever filing status you are on the last day of the year counts as your status for the entire tax year.

However, this also means that if you have already contributed to the Roth for the year and now your income disqualifies you, you still have time to undo the contribution before the tax year ends.

“If you made an IRA contribution and it becomes unallowable, it must be withdrawn by the due date of the tax return,” Rosen says. “This can occur if, for instance, you are a single person with no earned income,” or if you remarry.

How do Roth individual retirement accounts (Roth IRAs) work when I get divorced?

There is no special type of individual retirement account (IRA) for spouses. Instead, the rule allows spouses who do not earn a taxable income to contribute to a spousal IRA, either traditional or Roth, provided that they file a joint tax return with their working spouse. IRAs opened under spousal IRA rules are not co-owned. Your “married” Roth IRA as a married person is exactly the same account as your “divorced” IRA.

What happens to my IRA when I get divorced?

The “I” in IRA stands for “individual,” so even after you get divorced, the account doesn’t change. After you get divorced, however, you can contribute to your own IRA up to your annual contribution limit.

Can divorce make me eligible for a Roth IRA?

Yes. Perhaps your partner was earning too much to allow either of you to contribute to a Roth IRA when you were married, but now that you are divorced, you fall below the income limit. In that case, you should look at whether a Roth IRA is now a good option for you to save for retirement.

The Bottom Line

Normally, getting divorced won’t affect your Roth IRAs. You can keep contributing as you were before: up to $6,000 per year each in 2021 and 2022 if you are under age 50, or $7,000 if 50 or older. The exception is if your individual income is now higher than the income limits for Roth IRAs set by the IRS.

You can’t get around this by contributing before your divorce is finalized, because it’s your status on the last day of the tax year that counts. There are, however, indirect ways of contributing to your Roth IRA, even if you are above the income limits. Learn the income limits and possible strategies that you can use to contribute to a Roth IRA.

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Internal Revenue Service. “Retirement Topics — IRA Contribution Limits.”

  2. Internal Revenue Service. “Amount of Roth IRA Contributions That You Can Make for 2021.”

  3. Internal Revenue Service. “Amount of Roth IRA Contributions That You Can Make for 2022.”

  4. Internal Revenue Service. “How a Taxpayer’s Filing Status Affects Their Tax Return.”

  5. Internal Revenue Service. “Retirement Topics — IRA Contribution Limits.”

  6. Internal Revenue Service. “Publication 590-A (2021), Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs).”

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