When spouses divorce or otherwise separate their marital property, their retirement benefits often need to be divided. Knowledge of the Employment Retirement Income and Security Act (ERISA), as well as military and other governmental regulations, coupled with extensive experience with plan requirements of many employers and government agencies, allows our attorneys to expeditiously handle this complex practice area. While we do not handle divorces per se, the Derbes Law Firm works with domestic attorneys and their clients to advise them regarding the division of individual and employer-sponsored retirement benefits and deferred compensation benefits.
Retirement plans can be among the most significant assets of a divorcing couple. However, retirement plans are created for individuals, so federal law, retirement plan administrators and government agencies require a Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO) or other court order to divide an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Determining a former spouse’s interest can be complex. The Derbes Law Firm’s extensive experience includes resolving QDRO issues where there is a premarital balance, where the participant is deceased, where account records are limited where the retirement plan has switched record keepers during the marriage, where the retirement plan was frozen during the marriage, or after the participant has already commenced benefits.
The QDRO team has drafted QDROs for some of the largest private employers in the state of Louisiana, including ExxonMobil, Chevron, Entergy, Shell, Marathon, Ochsner, Tulane Medical Center, and Tulane University. The team has drafted hundreds of QDROs for other private employers. We regularly prepare orders to divide (a) military retired pay, (b) pensions for teachers, federal, state, parish and local employees, and (c) IRA’s. We also prepare calculations of the present value of military, government, and private pensions, as well as calculate the current value of a former spouse’s share of a retirement account when records are limited.
The Derbes Law Firm results for its clients include:
- Resolving multiple cases involving QDRO’s for the retirement plans of Avondale Industries, Inc., a local shipyard which went through five owners, with retirement plans being frozen, replaced, or coordinated with each other across the various ownership periods. Knowledge of the various plans and how they worked allowed the parties to reach settlement without needless litigation;
- Obtaining a judgment recognizing a former spouse’s share of military retired pay and awarding arrearages, using only the client’s testimony and publicly available rank and pay information. The former spouse now receives payments directly from the military;
- Preparing calculations to determine arrearages owed by participant to former spouse, which calculations include determination of tax rate for credit of taxes paid by participant on former spouse’s share. Parties accepted calculations and avoided further litigation;
- Preparing calculations to determine former spouses’ marital portion of IRA and deferred compensation awarded by employer. Drafted Letter of Instruction to plan administrator to accomplish division of the assets in both the IRA and the Restricted Stock Units Plan; and
- Obtaining temporary restraining order and injunction on behalf of former spouse for survivor benefits being paid to a subsequent surviving spouse, freezing payment until the matter would be settled and order submitted to the retirement system to commence payments directly to the former spouse.
- One Divorcing Spouse
- Both Divorcing Spouses