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What happens to public employee retirement benefits in a divorce?

Division of assets is a common source of dispute in a Colorado divorce. While some aspects are part of the marital property such as a home, a motor vehicle, bank accounts, a business and gifts that were given to the parties as a couple, there is often dispute over how a retirement plan will be split. If there is a public employee retirement plan, however, there are certain factors that must be considered. Often, the parties will have a written agreement as to how this benefit will be split. For those who have such an agreement or are considering one, having legal advice is essential as the dissolution moves forward.

In the written agreement to divide this retirement benefit, the person who has the retirement plan's name must be specified as must all their vital information like a social security number, mailing address, alternate payee and that person's relationship with the individual. When there is an agreement as to the benefit plan, the distribution method must be specified. With a defined contribution plan, the alternate payee's portion in a lump sum or fixed percentage must be listed.

The agreement can state that there will be no payments to the alternate payee that the individual would not be eligible to receive if there was not a divorce. When the agreement centers around a defined benefit plan, the agreement does not need to pay the alternate payee before the person reaches age 65 or before the retirement takes place - whichever comes first. The rights of the alternate payee to the retirement plan will cease when the benefits terminate or the alternate payee dies - whichever happens first - unless there is an agreement to have it paid to a separate beneficiary.

People who are getting a divorce will have many issues to be concerned about. Division of assets can be complex especially if there is a public employee retirement plan. For many, there was a written agreement regarding that plan in the event of divorce. Having legal assistance in dealing with this situation is imperative as the agreement can be confusing and complex. Contacting a qualified divorce attorney can be critical to getting the amount agreed to or scrutinizing the agreement if it needs to be changed.

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Mary Kay Kramer, P.C.
1820 West Colorado Avenue
Colorado Springs, CO 80904

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