When spouses divorce or otherwise separate their marital property, retirement benefits such as pension plans or 401(k)’s often need to be divided. Various state and federal laws prevent the completion of the division of these assets until the employer has received and approved a separate court order directed to the division of the applicable retirement plan benefit. Private retirement plans, which are subject to the Employment Retirement Income and Security Act (“ERISA”), must be divided using a court order known as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (or “QDRO”). Separate rules exist for the division of government retirement plans, including the military as well as for Federal, state, parish and municipal retirement plans, with separate court orders similar to a QDRO being required. Employers and their retirement plan managers often have their own preferred formatting for the separation of such assets, the knowledge of which makes the asset separation easier and less expensive for them, but more tricky for the parties and their attorneys, who may not be familiar with each employer’s requirements.
The Derbes Law Firm represents parties in connection with preparing retirement orders. In most instances, we prepare the required orders; in other instances, we review orders prepared by others. We also provide advice and analysis regarding the division of other employer-sponsored benefits, such as executive retirement benefits, stock options and restricted units. Sometimes the representation is of only one spouse, while in other instances, after the applicable waiver of the conflict of interest and attorney/client privilege and in order to save attorney fees, both spouses will seek joint representation by the Derbes Law Firm. The Derbes Law Firm does not handle divorces per se, but instead works with the domestic attorney or attorneys who handled the divorce as to all issues involving the division of the divorcing parties’ retirement benefits.