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Your Right to Retirement Assets

Military Law Group
Jar of coins with Retirement label and retro clock

Going through a divorce is never easy, and we at Military Law Group understand that. One of the most challenging aspects of this process can be the division of property, particularly when it comes to your retirement assets. We're here to guide you through this complex journey, providing you with valuable information and professional assistance to secure what is rightfully yours. We proudly serve clients throughout Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the surrounding areas.

Understanding Oklahoma's Property Division Laws

Oklahoma follows the principle of "equitable distribution" when it comes to property division in divorce. This does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split, but rather what the court deems as fair and just. The court classifies the couple's property into marital and separate property. Marital property, acquired during the marriage, is subject to division. In contrast, separate property, owned before the marriage or received as a gift or inheritance, usually remains with the original owner. However, exceptions can occur if the separate property has become commingled with marital property. Therefore, it's crucial to have a clear understanding of these laws or work with a knowledgeable attorney to navigate this process. 

Understanding Retirement Assets

Retirement assets are a significant part of this equation. Retirement assets, in simple terms, represent the financial resources accumulated over a person's working life, which are intended to provide income and ensure financial security during retirement. These assets come in various forms and are often tied up in various kinds of retirement plans. Some common types of retirement assets include: 

  1. Defined Benefit Plans: These are traditional pension plans where the employer promises a specified monthly benefit on retirement, often calculated through a formula considering factors like salary, years of service, and age at retirement. 

  1. Defined Contribution Plans: Here, the employer, employee, or both make regular contributions. The final benefit received depends on the returns on the investments made using these contributions. 

  1. Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs): These are tax-advantaged accounts that individuals set up independently to save for retirement. 

  1. 401(k) Plans: These are a form of Defined Contribution Plans offered by many employers. Employees contribute a portion of their wages, often on a pre-tax basis. 

  1. Government and Military Benefits: If you or your spouse has served in the military or worked for the government, you might have unique retirement benefits. 

  1. Savings Accounts and Annuities: These function much like other retirement plans but can vary widely in terms of contributions, distributions, and tax treatments. 

Each of these retirement assets possesses unique characteristics concerning the distribution during a divorce. It's essential to understand the specifics of each asset as they form a significant part of an individual's wealth and income post-retirement. 

How Retirement Assets Factor In

When it comes to retirement assets, the court usually views the portion earned during the marriage as marital property. This means it's subject to division between both parties. However, assets accumulated before the marriage may be considered separate property, and thus are not subject to division. 

This distinction is important because it could significantly impact the final division of assets. We're here to give you a clear understanding of what constitutes marital and separate property, so you can make informed decisions during this process. 

Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO): An Essential Tool

A QDRO is a legal document that spells out how retirement assets will be divided between spouses. It's an essential tool in ensuring a fair distribution of retirement benefits. 

A QDRO recognizes a former spouse's right to receive a portion of the plan participant's retirement or pension benefits as specified under the plan. The order must contain specific information, such as the name and last known address of the participant and each alternate payee, the amount or percentage of the benefit to be paid to the alternate payee, and the number of payments or period this order applies to.  

This legal instrument is critical because, under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue Code, retirement plans can distribute benefits to an alternate payee only if there is a QDRO. Without it, the non-employee spouse could not access their share of the retirement assets until the plan participant decides to start receiving distributions. 

It's important to ensure the QDRO is drafted carefully and accurately to avoid any future complications or disputes. Mistakes in drafting a QDRO can lead to the non-employee spouse receiving fewer benefits than intended or unexpected tax liabilities. Therefore, it is recommended to work with a knowledgeable attorney or a financial professional in this process, considering the complexity and potential impacts of the QDRO. 

We're Here to Help

At Military Law Group, we're committed to ensuring a fair division of retirement assets. Our team of skilled attorneys has extensive experience in handling cases like yours. If you're facing a divorce or have concerns about the division of your retirement assets, don't hesitate to reach out. We're here to provide the guidance and support you need during this challenging time. Remember, it's your right to secure your share of retirement assets. Call us today to schedule a consultation. Together, we can navigate this journey and secure your financial future.