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Retirement Plan Interests as Community Property

August 1, 2012

This is the second in a multi-part series by Christopher M. Moore. Read Part 1 (PENALTY-FREE DISTRIBUTIONS FROM RETIREMENT PLANS BEFORE AGE 59½ : A WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY) here.

Retirement plan interests are community property to the extent that the benefits are earned or accrued during the marriage. There are two judicially-approved ways to divide the community interest in a retirement plan. The first method is to reserve jurisdiction over the plan interest and divide each payment between the spouses based on the respective community and separate interests, as and when each payment is received. The second is to value the plan interest actuarially, award assets of equivalent value to the non-employee spouse, and award the entire plan interest to the employee spouse. In re Marriage of Brown, 15 Cal.3d 838 (1976).

As noted above, REA allows the non-employee spouse to withdraw a portion of the employee spouse’s retirement plan account pursuant to a QDRO.

Next Week: Taxation of Retirement Plan Withdrawals

Christopher M. Moore is a certified family law specialist, a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and a member of A Better Divorce, having specialized in family law for many years. Those years as a litigator have taught him that Collaborative Practice is the best way to resolve a divorce. A collaborative case is always faster, costs less and is less stressful than a conventional case where the parties face court congestion, delays and an adversarial, often hostile, relationship. Click here for more information about Chris and his firm.

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