- Published: Monday, 11 May 2015 21:01
Not surprisingly, the Washington, DC area is home to more federal government employees than any other region. For this reason it makes sense that more federal employees file for divorce in Washington, DC and surrounding areas much more often than in other parts of the country.
When a person makes a decision to get divorced, they will often perform a great deal of online research to see if they need a lawyer, or if there is a way they can represent themselves in the Family Court Division of the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. While you are allowed to represent yourself in most cases, or proceed pro se, as it known in court, there are variety of reasons why you should not do this. Especially if you are a federal employee.
Federal employees have many benefits not available to most private sector employees. One of the benefits is a federal pension or federal retirement plan. What many federal employees may not know is their current spouse may have rights in the benefits of these retirement plans since money earned during the marriage was used to fund these plans, and in some cases, match government contributions.
When a federal employee or federal retiree gets divorced, it may be necessary to split retirement benefits with employee’s soon to be ex-spouse. Even though the company managing the retirement plan will provide forms to beneficiaries to use during a divorce, this may not satisfy the very stringent IRS tax requirements. If this very technically demanding process is not completed properly, a situation may arise where one spouse gets the benefit of the retirement plan, and the other spouse gets stuck with the tax consequences, and there will little you can do to correct this problem once the divorce has been completed.
The proper course of action is to discuss your federal retirement plan with your Washington, DC divorce attorney so he can assist you with preparing a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) during your divorce process. A QDRO can be very difficult to understand, and it is not something any experienced divorce attorney would recommend a client try to do themselves.
According to the United States Department of Labor (DOL), a Qualified Domestic Relations Order is necessary when designating an alternate payee, and can be filed pursuant to a the issuance of a divorce decree. While there are a variety of online QDRO assistance websites, neither DOL nor any of these services will give actual legal advice pertinent to the facts of your situation. In other words, even if you try to prepare a QDRO on your own and file it with court, you may not know there are problems until it is too late to correct the damage that has been done.
In addition to federal pensions, joint ownership of mutual funds, IRAs, and other retirement and investment tools may also require special consideration during the divorce process. Since you have made the decision to end your marriage, it is best to the take the time to make sure you are not financially bound to your marital relationship long beyond the time of your divorce.
If you need assistance with a divorce or any other family law issue in Washington, DC, please contact the Law Office of Daniel A. Gross, PLLC by calling 202.596.5716.