Pensions, IRAs And 401(k)s
Retirement savings are a significant asset in most divorces, often representing the largest portion of a couple’s wealth. California law considers retirement accounts acquired during marriage community property, even if one spouse was the sole or primary earner, and made most of the financial contributions to the assets. As with other aspects of asset division, valuing and dividing these assets is theoretically simple, but can be complex and contentious, depending on the circumstances of the case.Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C., handles division of pensions, IRAs and 401(k)s in your California divorce. Our experienced divorce attorneys identify which portion of retirement funds are separate property, helping clients divide those accounts or offset one spouse’s community property interest in other ways.Our San Francisco firm regularly handles complex property division, including high net worth divorces, throughout the Bay Area.
Dividing Retirement Interests In Divorce
Contributions to a 401(k), IRA, pension, or other qualified plan before marriage generally remain the separate property of the contributing party. However, all contributions during the marriage, and all interest or appreciation earned during the marriage, are presumed to be community property. Family law employs a “time rule” formula (years of marriage divided by years of contributions) to determine the non-contributing spouse’s proportional pension benefit.
In dividing retirement accounts incident to a divorce, there are many factors to consider, such as the dates when you are eligible to receive pension benefits or access retirement funds, which depend on your age or the rules of the employer’s plan. We help you understand these issues and decide how you want to address retirement assets. Our lawyers will carefully explain the various options, so you can chart the most desirable course in view of your present financial circumstances and long-term goals, in consideration of tax consequences. For example, you may decide to:
- Each keep your own retirement accounts and offset the difference
- Divide the accounts through a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)
- Trade retirement assets for equity in the home or a business
“While my experience was personally trying, I had no doubts I was getting top quality legal representation. Everyone at the firm was professional and considerate. I was fortunate to be referred to the Schoenberg Family Law Group, and would recommend them.”
— Anonymous testimonial from a satisfied client.
Protecting Your Fair Share And Your Future
Dividing retirement assets requires sophisticated understanding of characterization, valuation, distribution, and taxation of these accounts. Debra R. Schoenberg is a Certified Family Law Specialist* with over 35 years of experience in analysis, negotiation, and litigation of property division. She is a renowned author and lecturer on these topics, and she leads a team of accomplished trial lawyers who are committed to safeguarding your best interests.
To speak with San Francisco attorneys who expertly handle division of retirement benefits, contact us online or call us at 415.834.1120.
* Certified in family law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization.