Dividing property in a divorce can be tedious. Everything you acquired during the marriage is now subject to the community property rule and will need to be equally divided under California family code section 760.

Depending on how long your marriage has lasted; you may have made significant contributions to a retirement plan while married to your spouse. Dividing a retirement plan isn’t entirely different from dividing any other community property, however, it does require that a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or QDRO, be filed. QDROs can be very complicated. It would be in your best interest to consult an experienced family law attorney when drafting one out.

A QDRO is a court document that needs to be signed by a judge and filed with the clerk of courts. It also has to be approved by the benefits provider that administrates the retirement plan. Depending on what kind of retirement plans you or your spouse hold, the approach to dividing their value will be different.

Pensions have to be valued differently than employee contribution plans. Pension amounts are based on actuarial value and require more accounting work to determine a fair dividable value. With a contributionary plan like a 401(k), the value of the account prior to marriage, if any, would be considered separate property and the value grown during the course of the marriage but prior to the date of separation would be considered community property ready to be divided.

For some plans, you will have to file a Joinder, which joins the plan as a party to the divorce. Don’t assume that if you and your spouse each have your own retirement plan that you can go your separate ways with your respective accounts. First, be sure of the real value of each account. Your efforts as an employee and your contributions to your plan are important to you; take the right steps to protect all that you are entitled to.

Given the complexity of retirement plans and the value at stake, it is a good idea to seek the services of an experienced Los Angeles family law attorney when dividing your property. If you are in a same-sex marriage or a domestic partnership, be sure to have an experienced Los Angeles divorce attorney help you; the laws on retirement plan division are not uniform across all forms of partnerships.

If you are in the Los Angeles or greater L.A. area and have questions about protecting your retirement plan during a divorce, Certified Family Law Specialist Mark H. Karney can help. Attorney Mark H. Karney and his skilled complex divorce litigation team can provide expert counsel to ensure you walk away with the all the assets you are entitled to. Call our Los Angeles office at 310-564-5710; email us at intake@cfli.com or contact us through our online form today to schedule a free consultation