In a divorce or dissolution, retirement accounts owned by either spouse are subject to complex rules under the equitable division of property standards of state law. As an Ohio family law attorney for more than 25 years, Rick Marks draws on his extensive experience with division of retirement assets to assist clients in Portage and Summit Counties.
In 1995, Rick Marks co-founded Marks & Chandler Co., L.P.A. with his wife, Beth Chandler-Marks. From the beginning, the law firm focused exclusively on family law. After Beth transitioned her practice to education law, Rick continued Marks & Chandler as a solo practice law firm, which it remains today. His practice has always been limited to family law.
Rick understands that division of property in a divorce is often a significant issue with life-changing potential. Retirement plans of spouses can pose challenging property division issues under any circumstances. When a retirement account is a significant asset, division of the account can affect your financial security and, in many cases, the future financial well-being of your family. As such, the property division issues can be extremely difficult, emotional, and stressful to navigate.
To minimize the stress of the situation and to help you make the best decisions for yourself and your family, both short-term and long-term, Rick provides both legal and moral support throughout the process, including close, on-going communication. You can always reach Rick to ask questions or address concerns — even evenings and weekends.
The success of Rick’s compassionate, client-centered approach to practice is demonstrated by the fact many of his clients come through referrals from former clients and other attorneys.
In an Ohio divorce or dissolution, retirement assets of each spouse are subject to the equitable division rules of state law. To the extent of appreciation and contributions to the plan during the marriage, assets in the plan are marital property subject to division. Appreciation or contributions made prior to the marriage are separate property not subject to division. Ascertaining the extent of marital and separate nature of retirement assets often requires complex analysis and valuation by an expert before the assets can be divided.
Several different approaches may be used to divide a retirement account between divorcing spouses. The best approach depends entirely on circumstances of the account(s) and other factors relating to the marital property and the divorce.
One possible approach involves allowing the owner of the retirement account to keep the assets entirely, but offsetting the value of the marital share of the account with different property of equal value, such as a home or other real estate. If the spouses own multiple retirement accounts, alternative approaches involve dividing each account between the spouses, or dividing the plans between the spouses in a manner that equalizes the distribution.
Retirement accounts are not all the same. Some are defined-contribution plans. Others are defined-benefit plans. Different federal and state laws apply to retirement asset division based on the type of account or plan. Public requirement plans are subject to specific requirements in Ohio law. Plans subject to ERISA, a federal law, are governed by provisions of that statute. Implementing a division requires following specific procedures that depend on the nature of the plan and the applicable law. Since a divorce decree cannot order a third-party retirement plan administrator to divide an account, separate documents are often necessary to accomplish division.
Division of a retirement account frequently requires preparation of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), or an Ohio Division of Property Order (DOPO), either of which must be approved by the divorce court. The documents are also subject to approval by the administrator of the retirement fund. After approval, the retirement assets are divided according to the terms specified in the document. The transfer documents may also address treatment of plan benefits like survivorship rights or death benefits before retirement, cost-of-living adjustments, as well as entitlement to gains and losses on the divided account.
Unlike defined-contribution and defined-benefit plans, Social Security retirement benefits cannot be divided between divorcing spouses and are excluded from equitable division except when relevant for purposes of dividing a public pension.
The divorce court will divide retirement assets if the parties are unable to agree on an equitable division of the accounts. As is the case with division of other marital property, negotiating an agreement that includes division of retirement assets is usually preferable to spending extra time and more money on a court proceeding to determine the division. Leaving the decision up to the court also leads to an unpredictable result.
To succeed in successfully negotiating an agreement that includes division of retirement benefits, you need a strong advocate with extensive knowledge of Ohio laws concerning retirement accounts and property division in general. Rick Marks has the right combination of experience, knowledge, and strategic skills to handle retirement asset division in a divorce. He also knows when experts in valuation are necessary, as well as when tax implications must be taken into account.
Rick makes certain that you fully understand the laws that apply to equitable division generally, as well as the special laws and rules that apply to your and your spouse’s retirement assets. That knowledge provides you with a solid foundation for making fully informed decisions on the critical issues that arise during negotiations relating to retirement asset division.
Throughout the process, Rick provides you with on-going advice and support. He is always available to answer your questions or address concerns. His compassionate approach minimizes the anxiety and emotional stress that are natural during the process of dividing retirement assets and other marital property in a divorce.
In settlement negotiations with the opposing attorney and in court proceedings that are part of the process, Rick provides vigorous, effective representation as your advocate. He works hard on your behalf to solve problems and find resolutions for issues. He protects your interests to the full extent necessary in order to achieve a result that is fair and reasonable. If an acceptable resolution does not come through negotiations, Rick represents you aggressively at trial, providing the court with detailed evidence and legal arguments to support your position.
To talk with Rick Marks about division of retirement in a divorce or any other family law matter, please call (330) 677-9000 or use the online contact form. From his office in Kent, Rick assists clients in Portage County and Summit County.