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FAQ: Post-Decree Retirement Division Litigation

If you’ve already gotten divorced and now you are in a disagreement about how retirement should be divided, you’re probably annoyed your divorce is still impacting your life. But you can’t ignore post-decree retirement division disputes. That’s why I wrote this FAQ relating to retirement division litigation.  

Wasn’t my divorce already finalized?

When a judgment for dissolution is entered, both parties usually hope that’s the last time a court needs to be involved in their case. But sometimes it doesn’t work that way.

After a judgment for dissolution is entered, parties must follow the judgment – or the marital settlement agreement (MSA) which is incorporated withing the judgment.

Here are some retirement-related examples of what can bring people back into court:

  1. Parties disagree about the language that should be used in a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO), or in a similar order
  2. Parties disagree about what their judgment for dissolution requires in regards to retirement division
  3. One or both parties haven’t taken some action that they were supposed to take in regards to splitting retirement accounts
  4. An administrator of a retirement plan is not doing something they should be doing

What happens is there is a problem with splitting a retirement account?

If there is a post-divorce problem with splitting a retirement account, then there essentially two options.

  1. Settle the case
  2. Litigate the case

Here are a couple examples of complicated post-decree retirement cases in which I’ve been involved?

  1. Determining whether a judgment was enforceable: In this case the parties were divorced almost 15 years before the case went back to court. The other side’s law firm was owned by a lawyer who was a former judge. I always though it was funny how the former judge would always try to buddy up to the judge in our case – talking about her new office, etc. Some lawyers do that to intimidate other lawyers. But it didn’t work. Although the other side argued that the clear language in the judgment should be enforceable because it was “unconscionable,” I won the case by having their motion dismissed after arguing that the relief they requested lacked support in law, and that the matter had already been decided.
  2. Determine what language meant: This case involved determining what was mean by language in a marital settlement agreement (MSA) which was incorporated into a judgement. The language was garbage – real “word soup” as I like to call it. The opposing party in my case was represented by a very aggressive attorney who had been practicing almost as long as I’d been alive. He liked to put on a show. He mocked me in the hallway, tried to badmouth me to my client, and insulted my work – all that before I completely destroyed his case after a hearing involving many minor court appearances and a hearing spread across two days. When the case was done, the judge said that I “won everything” for my client. In fact, I got what my client wanted – about $1,600 a month from her husband’s pension, instead of the approximately $300 a month he thought she should receive.

What if Wendy Drefahl is mentioned in my Judgment or MSA?

For some reason, it is not uncommon for a marital settlement agreement (MSA) or judgment for dissolution to stipulate the use of a certain person or company to be used to draft a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO), draft a qualified Illinois domestic relations order (QILDRO), or to determine the value of a pension or 401k.

Quite frequently, MSAs and judgment would name Wendy Drefahl as the person who would draft the QDRO – and in some case – determine the value of a pension or 401k. Wendy Drefahl was not an actuary, lawyer, or accountant, but she was involved in drafting a large number of QDROs and other similar orders. Wendy was the owner of the company WFA Econometrics. WFA Econometrics was based in Wisconsin, but had a lot of business in Illinois.

However, Wendy Drefahl is no longer working in the area of retirement division. If your MSA or judgment requires some work to be done by Wendy Drefahl or WFA Econonmetrics, then you might be searching for another person to do the work.

A great way to find such a person is to contact an Illinois divorce lawyer. Personally, I prefer very well-qualified people such as accountants or actuaries to draft  QDROs or to determine the value of retirement assets such as pensions, 401k, 403b, and deferred compensation. You might want to check out this article I wrote about divorce actuaries.

How do I find a divorce lawyer to handle a retirement case?

If you are reading this article, you’re off to a good start. I handle retirement division case. You can contact me at this link. Also, you can check out this article titled “Retirement Division and QDROs in Divorce.”

About the author: Contact Illinois family law attorney David Wolkowitz at 312-554-5433 or online. He is a family law and divorce attorney serving Chicago and the Counties of Cook, Champaign, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will. Areas of practice include divorce, uncontested divorce, child custody, visitation, spousal maintenance, child support, and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction & Enforcement Act (the “UCCJEA”).