Articles Tagged with retirement

iStock-654702696-300x200One asset that many Texans do not consider their spouse to have an interest in is their 401(k) or any other retirement fund that they have been slowly building during the course of their marriage. Having to divide up your retirement funds may throw a wrench into one’s retirement plans, but, where possible, courts often award retirement accounts to the spouse in whose name they are held. Provided the somewhat-ambiguous “just and right” standard is met, Texas divorce courts have wide discretion to divide up individual assets as they see fit. This may involve splitting each asset, such as 401(k), and dividing the funds therein between the spouses. However, more commonly, courts attempt to award whole assets to either party to avoid an overly complicated, and perhaps unnecessary, division of property.

With this in mind, it is important to focus aspects of your case at trial on why the court should award your 401(k) to you. Factors such as your role in contributing to it, your need for future support, the value of assets in your spouse’s control, your and your spouse’s relevant incomes, which spouse is appointed primary conservator of their children (if any), and many others can be useful to craft a compelling case to keep your 401(k) plan (or any other asset).

In addition, you can sometimes increase the likelihood that you keep your 401(k) post-divorce by entering into a settlement agreement with your spouse. In Texas, spouses are free to enter into settlement agreements to resolve one or more aspects of their divorce, such as the division of their community estate. Settlement is an important process in a Texas divorce, because it can often be the best way to ensure that you retain your hard-earned nest egg and any other assets that you consider important.

iStock-654702696A court dividing property in a Texas divorce must do so in a “just and right” manner.  The division does not have to be equal if the court has a reasonable basis to order a disproportionate division of the community estate. Texas courts have recognized a number of non-exclusive factors a court may consider, including differences in the parties’ earning capacities or incomes, difference in their ages, their relative financial circumstances, and the value of their separate estates.

A former husband recently challenged a property division, arguing the court had intended to achieve an equal distribution, but did not do so.

Comparative Circumstances of the Parties

The parties married in 1986 and the husband petitioned for divorce in 2019. The husband testified he was 57 years old and the wife was 56. Both parties were engineers.  He testified they earned about the same amount each year and both were healthy.  The both had substantial retirement benefits.

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iStock-543681178Under federal law, a court may not treat military disability benefits as community property for purposes of property distribution in a Texas divorce case. A husband recently challenged the property distribution in his divorce decree, arguing the court had improperly divided a portion of his military disability benefits.

Trial Court Divides Husband’s Military Retirement Benefits

The wife petitioned for divorce and sought a majority of the community assets.  The court granted the divorce on grounds of insupportability and adultery.  The decree gave the wife 55% of the husband’s disposable military retired pay, attorney’s fees, and conditional appellate attorney’s fees. The husband appealed.

The husband contended the 55% of his disposable military retired pay awarded to the wife erroneously included disability payments. The wife, however, argued the award did not include disability benefits and the decree had specifically awarded him his “VA Disability and Social Security Disability benefits” as separate property.

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iStock-654702696For many Texans, their 401(k) plan is one of their largest assets – particularly for those who have made regular contributions throughout their career. On top of that, 401(k) plans often hold symbolic significance above and beyond their sheer dollar value. To some, they represent safety, security, and an end to the monotonous rat race. For others, they are a prize, a badge of honor earned after countless late nights at the office. However, no matter the role they play in your life, the thought of losing half of your hard-earned nest egg can be terrifying. This begs the question: how much of your 401(k) is actually at stake in a Texas divorce? Continue Reading ›

In a positively surprising ruling, a federal Court refused to dismiss a hearing where FedEx denied survivor benefits to a same-sex spouse. The Plaintiff is Stacy Schuett and she was in a committed relationship for 27 years with her spouse when they were finally married in a civil ceremony in Sonoma County in June of 2013. A day later, her wife, Lesly Taboada-Hall passed away after a long struggle with cancer. The deceased wife worked for FedEx for 26 years and was fully vested in her company’s retirement plan. It was not until six days after her death that same-sex marriage licenses were available in the state of California. At this time, the surviving spouse, Stacy Schuett, submitted a claim as a surviving spouse entitling her to her deceased wife’s pension plan, but FedEx immediately denied her claim because they said she did not meet the definition of “spouse.”

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