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TX divorce lawyerWhen you are planning for a high asset divorce in Austin, Texas and know that your retirement accounts will be classified as community property and subject to division under Texas law, you will need to have a plan in place to divide those retirement benefits. For wealthy couples anticipating a high asset divorce, the amount of money in retirement accounts can be substantial. Using a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) to transfer retirement benefits as part of your divorce could end up saving tens of thousands of dollars (or even more depending upon the amount of money in your retirement accounts and the amount that needs to be distributed to your spouse).

We want to tell you more about QDROs and how they work, and to provide you with examples that demonstrate the importance of having a QDRO in a high net worth divorce. An Austin high asset divorce lawyer is here to assist you.

What Is a Qualified Domestic Relations Order in a High Asset Divorce?

What is a QDRO? The Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS) explains that a QDRO is a legal order subsequent to a divorce or legal separation that splits and changes ownership of a retirement plan to give the divorced spouse his or her share of the assets. In order to qualify for a QDRO, the ERS’ General Counsel must receive a certified copy of the divorce decree, and the ERS’ General Counsel must review and approve the QDRO.

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TX divorce lawyerWhile many divorcing couples go into the divorce process with the expectation that they may disagree on certain issues, such as who will retain the family home, many fail to remember that they will also need to determine how any retirement assets like 401(k) accounts will be divided. However, it’s important to take these types of unique assets into account when distributing assets, as they can play a crucial role in helping individuals become financially secure after their marriages are dissolved. For help understanding the complexities of dividing retirement accounts during your own divorce, please contact one of our dedicated Round Rock high asset divorce attorneys today.

Does the Account Qualify as Community Property?

How a 401(k) account is divided upon a couple’s divorce depends in large part on whether the funds in the account are characterized as community property or separate property. In most cases, 401(k) plans do not simply fall into one category or the other, as it is common for 401(k) plans to contain both types of property. This is because even if a 401(k) plan was started by one of the parties before a marriage took place, which would technically make it separate property, the interest in the plan that accrued during the course of the marriage will still qualify as community property, making it equitably divisible under Texas law.

Dividing the Account

Spouses who believe that they have a claim to the interest on a retirement plan will need to determine the amount of their share, which will be equal to the value of the plan at the time of the marriage (when it was considered separate property) minus the value of the plan at the time of divorce.

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Texas high asset divorce, Texas complex litigation attorney, Williamson County high asset divorce lawyer, A prominent financial advisor suggests that spouses who receive the marital residence following a high-asset divorce sell it, downsize, and use the extra cash to make catch-up contributions to their retirement accounts.

Such action is particularly appropriate if the divorcee is over 50, because persons of this age have less time to make up lost wealth. If a person saves $500 per month in housing costs, invests it, and realizes a 5 percent return, that extra cash will be $77,000 in ten years. Professionals suggest that the funds go into a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement account; in most cases, account holders can put up to $24,000 a year into their 401(k)s.

After divorce, household income drops by an average of 23 percent for men and over 40 percent for women.

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Texas high asset divorce attorney, divorce negotiations, Texas complex litigation lawyer, With the possible exception of the marital residence, a retirement account is typically the largest asset in a high net worth divorce. After years of saving and planning, it can be quite disconcerting to learn that a retirement nest egg is divisible just like any other marital asset. But, from both a legal and practical perspective, both spouses have made contributions to this account over the years, either by investing money in the plan or investing time in the marriage.

Most employer-sponsored plans, like a 401(k) or pension, require a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO); many IRAs can be divided without a QDRO. Many government-sponsored plans, most notably military retirement accounts, require a Division Order (DO), which is similar to a QDRO.

The Formula

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Texas complex litigaiton attorney, Texas high-asset divorce lawyer, QDRO, A retirement plan may be one of the largest assets in the marital estate, especially in a high asset divorce case when the parties have been married for a number of years. Section 7.003 of the Texas Family Code authorizes the judge "to determine the rights of both spouses" with regard to a defined benefit pension plan or a defined contribution retirement plan, such as a 401k or IRA.

Each plan is different and has its own rules. Some plans, most notably military retirement plans and some other accounts related to federal government employment, require a special Division Order, as opposed to a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). It is important that the QDRO or other order be timely and accurate, or else the IRS may assess taxes and penalties against the Alternate Payee, or non-employee spouse.

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