Unless your divorce settlement included ownership of real estate (and many times, even including real estate), retirement assets usually represent the single largest asset that must be divided when you divorce. Since California is a community property state, each party is entitled to 50% of the total retirement benefit accrued during the marriage, unless an alternate agreement is reached. It seems strange, then, that most marital settlement agreements don't spend more than a few sentences on the division of retirement benefits worth tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars.
The reason for this is generally that divorce attorneys and mediators do not consider themselves proficient enough in this area of law to advise on the subject.
Even self-help legal guides will defer you to a specialist when it comes to advising on the division of retirement benefits. Why? This area is hugely complicated by the variations from plan to plan, from federal to state and local laws, and because the involved values are tied to the financial market. The laws and the plans themselves are constantly changing. See our About QDROs section for more information.
Hiring an experienced attorney like Elizabeth Strasen is the best way to manage risk for both parties. When considering the total monetary value involved, our retainer is a small investment to protect a large sum of your money, and to ensure that the amount that is being transferred is accurate and exercises your full rights under the law.
There are many other services that process QDROs in some form. While some are legitimate competition, many will offer low retainers up front and then quickly run through their original estimate and end up costing you much more. We are proud to offer refunds to over half our clients. Other services offer one-time fees to draft the QDRO, and then leave you to figure out all of the other steps. Only an attorney can file the QDRO with the court on your behalf. And only an attorney with extensive experience in this field is able to thoroughly answer your questions and counsel you through any choices you need to make. Our office serves the final QDRO on the Plan, and actively pursues confirmation that the final QDRO was executed.
When considering our requested retainer, please also consider the total value of your retirement benefits and your potential tax risk. QDROs can't be put into place retroactively to reverse an assessed tax penalty.
Full service of the QDRO, from start to finish, means we take care of it so you don't have to. And having an attorney who takes responsibility for her work will give you peace of mind. We will store all of your documents for seven years or until the participant reaches retirement age - whichever is longer. If you have a question or a problem in the future, we'll be there for you.
Please see our Terms & Conditions for the limitations on relying on this information.