Family law issues are a complex mix of financial, legal and emotional challenges and require special attention by understanding and experienced attorneys. If you are divorcing, you need to work with an attorney who is experienced in this field and has an excellent reputation in the community. The matrimonial attorneys at Kreamer Arney Wait & Bottaro, L.C. realize that situations involving your family require special treatment and will guide you through the legal issues.
We provide clients with thoughtful and comprehensive representation throughout every type of family law issue. Our attorneys have the educational and professional background that demonstrates our dedication to achieving the best results for you and your family.
Traditional divorce – The first step for couples seeking a traditional divorce action is filing a divorce petition in court. Most divorce actions can be resolved without the need for a formal trial. During the course of the action, the parties resolve issues concerning child custody and support, alimony and finances . The attorneys attempt to negotiate a settlement based on the evidence. When a settlement cannot be reached our attorneys are ready to try the case.
Divorce mediation – Divorcing couples can attempt to resolve their divorce and all related issues through a mediation proceeding. The parties meet with a mutual mediator who attempts to help them reach common ground and formulate their own equitable settlement. The mediator explains various legal options and meets with the parties both together and separately. Both sides of the issue are heard, but the mediator does not give legal advice. When the parties reach an agreement, it is submitted to the court for final approval. The parties are wise to consult with an attorney to ensure that all of the issues have been addressed before the documents are signed.
Resolving difficult issues – Assets and liabilities that accumulate during a marriage are resolved during the divorce. A decision or agreement is made covering issues such as the marital home and other assets as well as the outstanding bills. Other issues we resolve include:
- Legal separation
- Child custody
- Child support
- Child support modifications
- QDRO preparation
- Prenuptial agreements
- Paternity actions
Dividing Retirement Accounts (Qualified Domestic Relations Orders)
In connection with divorce actions, we are frequently asked to prepare Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs) to divide pensions and 401(k) plans in which one of the parties has an interest. The Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) was enacted to protect the interests of employees in employer sponsored retirement plans. ERISA made an employee’s interest in a qualified retirement plan inalienable (which means it cannot be transferred without the employee’s consent). In the Retirement Equity Act of 1984 (REA), Congress recognized that qualified retirement plans are often the largest asset of a marriage and enacted very specific rules that authorized QDROs for the division of such plans.
It is critical to follow the REA rules for the division of qualified retirement plans because failure to do so may disqualify a plan in its entirety with significant tax effect on the sponsoring company and all of its covered employees. In addition, a QDRO must be drafted to protect the parties to the divorce action and to implement the property division to which the parties have agreed. A QDRO cannot modify any of the terms of the qualified plan and any division by QDRO is subject to plan rules. The plan administrator (typically the party’s employer) must determine that a QDRO meets both the requirements of the law and the requirements of the specific plan.
ERISA does not apply to government plans, but federal agencies (including OPM, DFAS, Railroad Retirement Board) utilize parallel procedures. Most state agencies do as well (although some jurisdictions in Missouri, for example, do not and will not allow the division of retirement plans).
Our lawyers have prepared hundreds of Qualified Domestic Relations Orders and similar orders, including Court Orders Acceptable for Processing (for OPM), Retirement Benefits Court Orders (for government Thrift Savings Plans and Railroad Retirement) and Military Qualifying Court Orders (for military pensions). Kreamer Kincaid Taylor Lipsman Arney Wait & Bottaro, L.C., can assist you with the division of retirement plans either as counsel in your divorce or as an intermediary working with both parties to satisfy ERISA and REA requirements.