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Protecting Retirement Accounts


Milwaukee Divorce Attorneys Protecting Retirement Accounts

Divorce Lawyers Representing Clients in Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Waukesha

For Wisconsin spouses getting divorced, retirement accounts are considered shared marital property that should be divided equally between the two parties. Common retirement plans that qualify include:

  • 401(k)s;
  • IRAs; and
  • Pensions.

Even if you are not currently drawing from your retirement account, it is considered a marital asset that is measured by its current or projected value. Depending on the type of plan and how much you contribute, your retirement account may become one of your most valuable marital assets.

The divorce attorneys at Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP often negotiate the division of high-value assets, including retirement accounts. We know how important your retirement benefits are to your future and will work to protect them during your divorce.

Ways That Retirement Accounts Are Divided

Most retirement accounts are not automatically divided during a divorce, but a spouse has a shared right to your retirement benefits if he or she requests them. There are two methods commonly used to divide a retirement account:

  • A Qualified Domestic Relations Order and equivalent documents; or
  • Offset compensation through other assets.

A QDRO, which is the more common method, designates the former spouse as an alternate payee who will receive a percentage of your retirement benefits. The QDRO should outline the specific percentage that the alternate payee will receive and when he or she will start receiving the payments. The offset method allows you to keep your entire retirement account in exchange for other marital assets of equal value.

Our attorneys at GRGB will construct a strong QDRO or other agreement that will clearly show you have met your obligation to equally share your retirement account.

How Much Your Spouse Receives

Because Wisconsin is a community property state, a retirement account that qualifies as marital property is assumed to be divided equally during a divorce. While this means that your former spouse can receive half of your retirement benefits, the court may divide it differently, depending on factors such as:

  • How long your marriage lasted;
  • Non-marital assets that your spouse possesses;
  • The value of your spouse's own retirement account; and
  • Pre- or postnuptial agreements on how to divide retirement accounts.

If you accrued part of your retirement benefits before you were married, you may be able to exempt that portion from being marital property. GRGB can determine how much of your retirement account is marital property and what is a fair amount for your former spouse to receive.

Assessing the Value of Your Retirement Account

Retirement plans have many variables that can make them difficult to value. When estimating the future value of your retirement plan, you may not know:

  • Whether your employment will continue;
  • What your future contributions will be;
  • When you will retire; or
  • How the plan may change.

In order to properly divide your retirement benefits during a divorce, you need an attorney who is experienced with retirement accounts. GRGB has attorneys who are knowledgeable in all forms of property division during a divorce. Schedule an appointment with GRGB today by contacting our Milwaukee office at 414-271-1440.

Attorneys on our Protecting Retirement Accounts Team:

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