Dividing Pensions in a Divorce: Shared vs. Separate Interest

Dividing pensions in a divorce can be confusing. For starters, some clients that I see are often confused (even after negotiating their divorce settlement) regarding what type of retirement account(s) that they have. In this blog, I am referring specifically to defined benefit plans. Defined benefit plans are retirement plans where the employee spouse has earned a monthly benefit, which will be paid out once s/he retires. In some divorce cases, the employee spouse and his/her former spouse agree to divide the future benefit via a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO).

Unfortunately, most settlement agreements that I see where pensions were divided do not adequately address the options allowed by the defined benefit plan. To be clear, the options are not consistent across all plans. Thus, it does take some research to know what the options are before they can be considered. The easiest way to avoid some very common mistakes is to request a copy of the plan summary document and...

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How to determine which assets to keep in a divorce

Most of the time, when I sit down with couples preparing to dissolve their marriage, individuals assume that each account will be divided in half. Did you know that's not always the case? In states like Ohio, where the law requires an equitable distribution of assets in a divorce, it's important to remember that equitable is not always equal. If you have options, how do you determine which assets to keep in a divorce? Rather than ramble on about all of the issues to consider, let's take a look at an example of a couple with whom I recently worked. I will refer to them as Michelle and James and have tweaked the details so as not to divulge their confidential information.

An Example of Dividing Assets in a Divorce

James and Michelle were married for the last 18 years. Michelle is a teacher who has worked in a local Ohio public school district for 23 years. James has a job in IT in the private sector and has worked at various companies throughout his career. He has been with his...

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4 Dissolution Tips All Teachers Need to Know

pensions strs teachers Oct 11, 2017

Teachers, if you are in the process of terminating your marriage, these dissolution tips are for you.

Teachers hold a special place in my heart for many reasons. For one, early in my career, I was a teacher. I earned my Master's in Education and have made quite a few teacher friends over the years. Additionally, I had the pleasure of having some fabulous teachers throughout my education. My children have also been blessed with some wonderful teachers who truly care about their success.

Often, when I meet with teachers who are faced with the end of their marriage, they realize that they do not have a complete understanding of the family finances and their retirement benefits, in particular.  Many do not even realize that they have options when it comes to their pensions. Teachers, you are not alone! It is my passion to provide the education you need to feel empowered as you go through your divorce.

Here are 4 dissolution tips every teacher should know:

Get a ...

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What is considered separate property in a divorce?

I often have clients come in who are misinformed about separate property and which assets should be divided in their divorce. Since I'm in Ohio, I will use that as my example. Ohio is an equitable division state. That means that a couples' marital assets are divided equitably in a divorce. It's important to note that equitable is not always equal but I will come back to that in another post. The question, however, is what constitutes a marital asset. All else would be considered separate property.

Pensions in Divorce

I hate gender stereotypes but I see this all the time so I think it is worth calling it out. I have never once had a man come into my office and say, "She can keep her pension, she earned it" while I frequently hear from female clients, "He can keep his pension, he earned it." I'm hoping others working in the divorce field have not had that same experience.

The pension is commonly the largest asset of the marriage.  If all or a portion of the pension was...

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