Divisions of retirement and pensions during a divorce can be a complicated process involving many different facets of family, state, and local law. This can become even more difficult in cases where the pension in dispute is one acquired through a Firefighter or Law Enforcement Officer. If you or your spouse are a firefighter or law enforcement officer and have acquired a pension through this occupation, contact an experienced attorney to consult with on your unique case and walk you through this process.
Pensions are unique retirement plans as they are typically overseen by your employer and have contributions from both you and your employer. In the State of Florida, law enforcement officers and firefighters have publicly funded pensions maintained as a part of the Florida Retirement System. Your employer contributes to these plans as well as providing you with the option to increase your investments through your personal contributions. Therefore, these pensions can be a highly contentious issue in a divorce if the investments acquired, occurred during the marriage and significant marital funds were contributed into this plan.
However, simply dividing these pensions is not an option. In Florida, publicly funded pensions are governed by specific state laws and are part of the Florida Retirement System. These pensions, the benefits accrued from these pensions, and the Florida Retirement System are all governed by Florida Statute 121. One difficulty with these pensions is that Florida law prohibits the benefits of the pensions for “assignment, execution, or attachments to any legal process whatsoever.” 121.131 Therefore, a divorce decree, or the commonly used Qualified Domestic Relations Order, cannot divide the future pension benefits be assigned to the spouse who did not accrue them through their employment; as they would for private pension plans. Therefore, the court must devise different methods to account for this loss of pension benefits that one spouse is entitled to.
If the pension accrued benefits during the course of the marriage, or marital funds were expended investing in this plan, the second spouse is entitled to a portion of these funds. Therefore, courts will create methods to compensate for this loss after the divorce, outside of a QDRO. Some courts choose to add the value of the pension benefit to the monthly alimony award, award an asset of equal value, or create a trust account where the pension payments may be deposited by the employed spouse.
Dividing these unique publicly funded accounts, governed under state law can be a complicated process that requires multifaceted methods of reimbursement. It is important to have experienced counsel on your side and representing your interest in this process to ensure you receive the awards you are entitled to. Contact an experienced Orlando Divorce Attorney today.
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