What happens to retirement benefits in divorce?

By Heidi Buck Morrison

One of the assets that must be dealt with in divorce is the parties’ retirement accounts such as pensions, 401Ks and IRAs. Upon divorce, retirement benefits must be valued and divided.

With respect to valuing a retirement account, there are two valuation methods used by courts. First, the “Time Rule” is a valuation method that determines the community interest in a retirement by computing a ratio of the time of marriage, to the total years of service during which the pension or retirement was earned. Maslen v. Maslen, 822 P.2d 982 (Idaho 1991). Under this valuation method, the calculation must be determined by calculating the amount of benefits that would be due if the spouse were eligible for retirement then. Id., at 982.

A second valuation method is the “Accrued Benefit Rule”, which determines the community interest as the difference between the value of the retirement account at the date of divorce and the value at the date of marriage. Hunt v. Hunt, 137 Idaho 18 (2002). In each circumstance, one of these valuation methods may better serve one or both of the parties and the attorneys at Racine Olson can assist you in ensuring your our your spouse’s retirement assets are property valued.

The second step in dealing with retirement benefits during divorce is to divide the retirement. In Idaho, community assets, including retirement benefits, are subject to a substantially equal division.

Retirement benefits may be divided via a “lump sum” (present value) award. This method of division is preferred in Idaho as it allows each spouse immediate control of his or her share in the community asset. Carr v.Carr, 108 Idaho 684 (1985). In some circumstances, however, where there is other community property or sufficient value to be awarded to the nonemployee spouse, the employee spouse can “buy out” the non-employee spouse and receive the entire account.

If you are facing divorce, contact Heidi Buck Morrison today for a consultation. Toll free at 877.232-6101 or 208-232-6101. You can also email Heidi Buck Morrison dirctly at hbm@racinelaw.net. Our attorneys serve all of Idaho, including Firth, Malad, Montpelier, Preston, Soda Springs, American Falls, Blackfoot, Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Rigby, Twin Falls, Burley, and Boise.

This website includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer for advice on specific legal issues.


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