As a family lawyer for Bucks and Montgomery County, we help clients just like you through the complicated process of divorce. When clients walk in our door, they are usually very concerned about paying and receiving alimony and child support and then working out a schedule for their children. During the initial meetings and discussions, we remind them of the importance of looking down the road a few years to retirement.
Retirement plans are often one of the significant assets up for distribution in the course of a divorce. Careful attention should be given to the type of retirement plan at issue to avoid tax penalties and/or early withdrawal penalties to the extent possible. Additionally, the type of retirement plan will dictate what will be necessary in terms of documentation or court orders to effectuate the rollover. Non-qualified plans include individual retirement accounts or IRAs. These can usually be rolled over by completion of a form with the applicable institution. You should still do a direct rollover to a similar account to avoid taxes and/or withdrawal fees.
Receipt of the divorce decree does not necessarily mean nothing else needs to be done. In a case with a marital residence, the parties may still need to sell the house or one party may have a certain window for refinancing the property and buying the other party out. If you are a party retaining a marital residence by agreement or court order, you can change the locks once the property is formerly awarded to you. The party vacating the residence should be sure to change their address with the post office and update other accounts accordingly. In a case where retirement benefits are being split, the parties may need a qualified domestic relations order or QDRO for short.
Retirement assets are often one of the substantial assets in a marital estate. It is possible to do a tax-free rollover of retirement benefits as part of a divorce. First, you will need to know what kind of benefits are involved. Qualified benefits will require a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) to achieve the tax-free rollover. Qualified plans include defined contribution plans such as 401K as well as defined benefit plans such as pensions. Federal retirement plans (e.g. CSRS, FERS, TSP) also require a court order to achieve the rollover however the appropriate order for federal plans is a Court Order Acceptable for Processing (COAP). Once the QDRO or COAP is drafted to dictate the percentage or fixed amount to be rolled over, it is signed by the parties and then the Judge prior to submission to the plan for execution.
A qualified domestic relations order or QDRO for short, is a document that is needed to split certain retirement benefits in the context of a divorce. Specifically, all benefits governed under ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) require a QDRO for division. ERISA plans may include pensions, 401Ks, profit-sharing plans, and stock ownership plans. A few examples of plans not governed by ERISA are local state or municipal plans, IRAs, or military benefits. There are certain base requirements for all QDROs. One, you must identify the name and address of both the participant spouse and the alternate payee, or party now standing to receive a portion of the benefits.
Pensions, as well as other retirement plans, are often one of the assets up for division in a divorce. The court will equitably divide the marital portion of a pension plan after considering all the relevant factors in equitable distribution. The marital portion of a plan would be the portion that accrued from the date of marriage through the date of separation. In some cases, the entire pension will be marital depending on the timing of the marriage alongside the start date of the pension plan. The marital portion will also include investment experience on the marital portion that accrues post-separation. It will not include contributions by the employee made post-separation.