When people divorce, retirement accounts and employee benefits are not the first thing they think of. But in most cases they are one of the top assets in need of division. Often assets such as 401(k) plans that were added to over time, making appraisal in division of retirement assets more complex than appraising a car or home. There are almost innumerable types of retirement funds and employment benefits that must be identified and divided.
All plans have unique features, and some pension plans may be particular to your employer only. Some institutions, such as the federal government, the armed forces, state government, and private companies have their own pension and retirement savings systems. Dividing some of these plans, poses challenging assessment issues that some attorneys are unwilling to get into.
When dividing your retirement accounts, keep the following in mind:
Not only is it important to identify the plans, it is also important to obtain documentation to allow the accounts to be divided.
Documentation about the retirement plan and the values of the accounts should be obtained during the divorce. Waiting until after the divorce to obtain the documents can be prove difficult.
If you began contributing to your retirement accounts prior to your marriage, the value of the non-marital portion of the account must be identified as part of your agreement.
In most cases, the only mechanism to divide a retirement account is by the entry of a separate Cort Order, a Qualified Domestic Relations (QDRO), to divide the monies. Neither spouse can just write a check to the other spouse.
Make sure you engage a QDRO specialist draft or review any proposed QDRO otherwise valuable benefits could be lost by both parties.
Your divorce must address all of the requirements of the individual plan in order to allow you to receive your money timely.
Some retirement plans, such as municipal pensions, will not accept a QDRO. In this case, the parties' agreement will need to include other mechanisms to obtain the money from the former spouse.
A Qualified Domestic Relations (QDRO) shifts the tax burden of the money in a retirement accounts from the owner of the account to the other spouse. It is important to understand taxes or penalties involved if the money is withdrawn for cash. The Plan Administrator can not provide a tax calculation for you.
The bottom line in each case is: Work with a lawyer who is experienced in your kind of benefit and savings plans. Florida family law attorney Chris Smed has the experience and the knowledge of case law to guide you safely through the tangle of division of this valuable marital asset.
When your future retirement is at stake, you want to work with the a knowledgeable and skillful retirement division attorney. Contact Florida Licensed Attorney Christian D. Smed, P.A. at 407.644.2978 or contact us today.
CHRISTIAN D. SMED, P.A. 941 West Morse Boulevard, Suite 100 Winter Park, Florida, 32789