Divorce and Retirement Accounts

January 31, 2017 | Divorce, Legal Perspective

Icon for author Todd Begg Todd Begg

Many Pittsburgh couples have retirement accounts ranging from a company pension to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) that they opened online to roll over a 401(k) account from a former employer.  So, what happens when the couple files for divorce?  How are those retirement accounts divided between the parties?

Retirements Account Options:

Employee Retirement Income Security Act
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) is a federal law that governs many types of retirement plans established by private employers. The law applies only to private plans and does not regulate other types of accounts, such as military pension or state retirement plans.  The statute sets forth the rules an employer must follow such as when an employee can participate in a retirement plan or what benefits can be provided to a spouse upon the death of the employee.

If a retirement account is subject to ERISA, it is necessary to use a document known as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order in order to divide the account between a divorcing couple.  If you are unsure if ERISA applies to your retirement accounts, experienced Pittsburgh divorce lawyers can review your account statements and determine what rules govern a division of the asset between you and your spouse.

Pittsburgh Qualified Domestic Relations Orders
The United States Department of Labor defines a Qualified Domestic Relations Order:

A domestic relations order that creates or recognizes the existence of an alternate payee’s right to receive, or assigns to an alternate payee the right to receive, all or a portion of the benefits payable with respect to a participant under a retirement plan, and that includes certain information and meets certain other requirements.”

A Qualified Domestic Relations Order sets forth the exact terms for dividing a retirement account including the following:

  • The name and address of the employee known as the Participant;
  • The name and address of the spouse known as the Alternate Payee;
  • The date of the marriage;
  • The date of the divorce;
  • The specific terms for dividing the retirement benefit such as a percentage to be paid to a former spouse.

Other Retirement Accounts
Other types of retirement accounts may also need division after a divorce including 401(k) and IRAs, and each account will have different rules and regulations.  By way of example, a retirement account maintained by the owner of a small local restaurant might have different rules for division than a 401(k) account that is available to your spouse who works for a mid-size company. A divorce attorney understands what forms are necessary to finalize a division of any such retirement account in accordance with the terms of your divorce decree and settlement agreement.

Contact a Pittsburgh Divorce Lawyer Today

It is difficult, both emotionally and financially, for any couple to go through a divorce.  You need an experienced divorce lawyer from Pollock Begg Komar Glasser & Vertz LLC, to make certain that all of your assets are protected including any retirement accounts. Call today at (412) 471-9000 to speak to one of our lawyers or use our online contact form.

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