Alimony Case Examples – Retirement Accounts and Pensions
In dissolution of marriage proceedings, courts may be asked to determine an equitable distribution of marital assets such as retirement or pension accounts.
The general rule is that contributions made to these accounts before marriage are considered non-marital, but the spouse owning these accounts must present evidence showing the value or extent of the pre-marriage contributions. Without evidence, pre-marital contributions will be considered marital assets and subject to an alimony allocation scheme.
Additionally, the enhancement of one spouse’s nonmarital retirement benefits from the efforts of the other spouse during the marriage is an issue that is contemplated by Florida’s alimony law. Thus, portions of a nonmarital retirement plan can be considered a marital asset and will be included in the equitable distribution of marital property.
The following three articles will explore how some courts have navigated the complex area of Florida alimony law which can be helpful when evaluating what kind of alimony award will be granted in your divorce.
Former Husband Presented Trial Court With No Evidence of His Pre-Marital Contributions to His Retirement Account, Therefore It Was Properly Evenly Split
The parties were married in 2008, the former Wife left the marital home in 2018 and the parties petitioned for dissolution of marriage shortly after. In the proceedings, the trial court found the former Husband’s retirement account was a marital asset. The former Husband appealed the trial court’s finding, arguing that the trial court erred in its determining of equitable distribution.
The appellate court reviewed the trial court’s equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities through the standard of review of abuse of discretion. Parties in a dissolution of marriage have an obligation to present evidence of the existence of marital assets and debts in order to be included in the final judgment. The trial judge has no responsibility to make findings of value if the parties did not present any evidence of that issue.
Therefore, in this case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it came to the finding that the former Husbands retirement accounts were marital assets. Although the husband argued that he began contributing to the account five years before the marriage, there was no evidence of this pre-marriage contribution presented to the court. Therefore, the trial court properly determined that both the former Husband and the former Wife’s retirement accounts were marital assets to be split 50-50.
Trial Court Failed to Address Former Husband’s Contributions to Retirement Plan After Filing Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
The former Husband in this case argued that the trial court should not have found his retirement savings and investment plan were marital assets. The former Husband had a Thrift Savings Plan (“TSP”) which he opened two years after the parties were married. He contributed to the TSP throughout the marriage, including after they filed for dissolution of marriage in August of 2014. The petition for dissolution of marriage, however, was not served until July of 2015 because the couple had tried to reconcile for some time after the petition had been filed. The trial court found the contributions the former Husband made to the TSP account to be evenly distributed between the parties.
Florida Statute §61.075 provides that “all vested and nonvested benefits, rights, and funds accrued during the marriage in retirement plans and programs” are marital assets and “the marital portion of a retirement account is to be equitably distributed”. The distribution will consider the efforts or contributions of either party during the marriage.
The trial court failed to address how the former Husband contributed to the TSP account after the date that the petition for dissolution of marriage was filled. The appeal court recognized that any or all of the Husband’s post-filing contributions to the TSP constitute a nonmarital asset and the trial court should reconfigure the unequal distributions in this case. The portion of the final judgment that addressed the distribution of the former husband’s TSP is reversed, and the trial court must determine how to classify the post-filling contributions made to the TSP.
Trial Court Failed to Make A Finding on What Portion of a Pension Should be Classified as a Marital Asset
In this case, the trial court entered a final judgment on the dissolution of marriage that classified the former Wife’s retirement plan as nonmarital property. The trial court concluded that the former Wife’s FRS pension was a nonmarital asset because her employment start date was after she filed her petition for divorce (in 2013) even though she started contributing to her retirement plan as early as 2011. However, the former wife offered no evidence indicating that she established her pension as a nonmarital asset.
According to the appellate court, the trial court should have taken evidence and made a finding regarding what portion of the pension should be classified as a marital asset based upon the facts presented.
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If you and your former spouse are having an issue with how to determine if a retirement account or pension is a marital asset and therefore part of an alimony award, then you should consult with an experienced Plantation divorce attorney to help resolve this issue in an equitable manner.
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