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What Divorcing Spouses Need to Know About Pensions and Retirement Plans

Posted on in Property Division

Los Gatos, CA divorce attorney for 401(k), IRA, pension plansWhen getting a divorce, you will need to address a wide variety of complex financial issues. Since California is a community property state, the property division process will need to address all of the assets and debts you acquired during your marriage and ensure that you and your spouse each receive an equal share of the marital estate. Retirement savings accounts and pension plans can often complicate asset division. These assets will need to be properly valued, and the right procedures will need to be followed when dividing them between you and your spouse.

Using a QDRO to Divide Retirement Accounts and Pensions

Retirement savings often represent some of the most valuable assets owned by a married couple. These may include employer-sponsored retirement plans such as 401Ks or individual retirement accounts (IRAs). In some cases, the full balance in an account may be considered marital property. However, if one spouse contributed to an account before getting married, some of the funds in the account may be considered separate property. The assistance of a financial expert may be needed to determine the value of an account at different points in time and establish the marital portion of these funds.

Determining the value of a pension plan can often be even more difficult, since the amount that a person will be able to receive in pension benefits may not be known until they reach retirement age. The actual value of these benefits will depend on the amount of income a person receives, the amount of time they worked in a pension-eligible position, and the number of years they expect to receive benefits after retiring. A person’s ex-spouse will be entitled to receive a percentage of their pension payments, depending on the amount of time they were married while working in the job where they earned these benefits.

When dividing the funds in a retirement account, couples will want to use a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). This type of order is sent to the plan’s administrator, and it will state that a specific dollar amount or a certain percentage of the funds should be withdrawn and transferred to the account holder’s spouse. By using a QDRO, a person will not be charged any penalties for the early withdrawal of funds, and the recipient spouse will not be required to pay taxes on the funds that are transferred, as long as they roll them over into their own retirement account. A QDRO can also be used to allocate pension benefits, and it will state that a certain percentage of the payments should be sent to the person’s ex-spouse.

Contact Our Los Gatos QDRO Attorney

To ensure that retirement savings and benefits are handled correctly during your divorce, you will want to work with an attorney who can ensure that these assets are properly valued and divided. At the Law Offices of Benita Ventresca, we will help you understand your rights regarding your marital property, and we will help you prepare and file QDROs or other paperwork to make sure your financial interests are protected as you divide your marital assets. Contact our Los Gatos, CA property division lawyers today at 408-395-8822 to set up a complimentary consultation.


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20 S. Santa Cruz Ave., Suite 212
Los Gatos, CA 95030

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