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Retirement and Employment Benefits

When it comes to dividing assets, retirement and employment benefits are difficult to divide especially if the parties have not retired yet. In some cases the spouse was working at the job before the marriage and will continue to work at the same job after marriage so how do you accurately calculate the amount of money a spouse should get from future benefits? If you are going through a divorce where retirement benefits are in dispute, you need to contact a licensed Phoenix family lawyer to help you with dividing the retirement and employment benefits.

Scottsdale Employment Benefit and Divorce Attorney

For many spouses going through a divorce, retirement accounts and employment benefits make up a large part of the community estate. It is important to get the proper assessment of these assets to ensure that there is a fair and equal property division. An experienced family law attorney and financial professionals can make sure that the assets are divided fairly for people going through divorces.


Retirement Plans

There are a variety of retirement plans, pension plans and other investments individuals use to save for retirement. Some of the most common employment retirement plans are:

  • Pension Plans
  • 401(k)
  • IRA
  • Stock Options

Contact an attorney and your employer’s human resources department to find out exactly the terms of your retirement plan and how divorce will affect it.


Deferred Compensation Plans

An example of a deferred compensation plan is a pension plan. With the deferred compensation plan, a certain amount of money is given to the employee when he or she reaches a retirement age after a number of years of service. The amount of the benefit is usually calculated by averaging the employee’s income, and then multiplying that average by a ration of the age of the employee and the number of years of credible service to the employer.

It can be difficult to calculate the value of a deferred compensation plan because the payment is made later on in life in most cases several years after the divorce. There are complicated calculations that can determine how much retirement a spouse will receive. Once the projected payment is determined then more calculation are made to determine how much of the retirement payments the spouse is entitled to for the years he or she was married to the spouse with the deferred retirement plan.


Defined Contribution Plans

Defined contribution plans are accounts that contain stock, cash and other liquid assets. Employees contribute a portion of their salaries to the plan, and the employer will often match the employee’s contribution up to a certain percentage. The value of the account is not dependent on the years of service the employee puts in with the employer.

The return on investment or ROI of contributions will establish the absolute amount of the fund. These plans portable and transferable so an employee can turn over the contribution funds into a new employer’s retirement plan.

Here are some more examples of defined contribution plans:

  • Profit sharing plan
  • Stock saving plan
  • 401K
  • 403B
  • Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA)

Things get more complicated when couples combine their defined contribution plans together. It is necessary to get both legal and financial advice to make sure that the division of retirement accounts is done properly.


Stock Options

Some people choose to privately invest funds in stocks and make up a stock portfolio of investments that they can later cash in for their retirement funds. It is also possible to invest in the company you work for and get stock options as part of your retirement fund. Stock options can be shares of the company granted to the employee as a reward for service to the employer or to compensate the employee over and above the salary or hourly wage. Stock options usually vest after you have been employed with the company for a certain amount of time.


Job Specific Retirement Benefits

Some professions have very specific retirement benefits. When going through a divorce involving property division or financial disputes, it’s important to retain an attorney that is familiar with your profession and the types of retirement plans offered in that profession. Teacher, firefighters, police officers and other professionals should consult an attorney with knowledge of the retirement benefits particular to their profession.


Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)

Usually retirement plans can be classified as community property, separate property or commingled property. It is not uncommon for a portion of a retirement plan to be earned prior to the marriage and thus part of the plan is separate property and the other part is community property. Generally the portion acquired before marriage is separate property and the sole property of the spouse who earned it, and the portion acquired during the marriage will be split fifty-fifty. A special court order called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order is needed to divide a retirement plan.

The QDRO is a specialized legal document that must comply with federal law and any additional requirements of the plan administrator. The QDRO is the formal division of the retirement accounts and it is incorporated into the final divorce decree. It is imperative that the family law attorney have the knowledge required to properly characterize retirement benefits and the ability to actually divide the retirement plans.


Daly Law Firm, PLLC - Phoenix Retirement Benefits and Divorce Lawyer

If you are going through a divorce with retirement accounts in dispute it is essential to get help from an experienced Scottsdale family law attorney. You need to guarantee that someone advocates for your rights in the divorce and makes sure the retirement benefit division is fair. If you are contemplating a divorce in the Phoenix, Scottsdale, or the Maricopa County area, don’t hesitate to call The Daly Firm at (480) 607-8308 for a free consultation to answer your questions and concerns about employment and retirement benefits.

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