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Addressing retirement benefits during property division (part 1)

Last week on our Dallas family law blog, we began discussing retirement benefits -- specifically Social Security retirement benefits -- in the context of property division. This is something that may not initially strike couples as a major consideration in the divorce process. Couples are likely more focused on more immediate and tangible assets like a house, and issues surrounding child custody, alimony, and so on.

Retirement accounts, however, can potentially be valuable assets to consider at the end of a marriage, perhaps more valuable than any other asset. For this reason, we'll spend some time this week discussing how Texas law handles retirement plans in the divorce process. There are some legal technicalities involved with which residents often find that the assistance of a legal professional proves vital.

The legal mechanism which facilitates the separation and transfer of retirement plans among divorcing partners is called a qualified domestic relations order. It is necessary to obtain a court-ordered QDRO if you want to exercise your right to your share of your partner's retirement benefits. Without it, there's nothing stopping your partner from cashing out the account entirely before property division can commence. A QDRO also ensures the plan administrator can continue paying benefits if either or both spouses remarry in the future.

Of course, different employers and different retirement plans have different rules and considerations. This is one reason why a Dallas qualified domestic relation orders (QDRO) attorney's advice can come in useful -- the Law Offices of Mary Ann Beaty, P.C. have experience and knowledge of the different types of plans and associated QDROs. We'll look at some of these in our follow-up post.

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