Although 401K accounts and IRA retirement accounts are generally protected from creditors, they may not have the same protection against an ex- spouse regarding the payment of alimony or child support arrears. Stated another way, if you are owed either alimony or child support, do you have a right to collect the monies owed from your ex-spouse’s retirement accounts?
Statutes that were designed to protect the family assets from creditor claims, so that the family would not become dependent upon the state for support, do not afford an individual the same protection against their ex-spouse for the payment of child support or alimony arrears.
In order for a spouse to reach funds held in a retirement account, whether it be an IRA or a 401(k), there must first be an existing support order. Next, there must be a finding by the court that there are in fact arrears owed pursuant to that court order which have accrued as a result of nonpayment by the obligor. If the court makes an affirmative finding that the obligor has willfully refused to pay support obligations, he or she may be found in contempt of court.