When a couple decides to divorce, there is often a lot of questions regarding their rights to their spouse’s assets such as retirement and pension plans. Pursuant to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, both parties to a divorce are entitled to 50% of the other spouse’s retirement or pension plan that accrued during the marriage. This includes any amounts accrued until a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage. As such, even though you may have been separated from your spouse for several years, you are still considered married until the Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage is entered.
There are other considerations however that need to be considered. For example, just because you are entitled to half of your spouse’s retirement benefit accrued during the marriage does not mean that you will receive all of that money in one lump sum. Each retirement and pension fund is different and you should consult with a representative from the individual plan to determine whether you are entitled to a lump sum award or if you must wait until your spouse vests to receive any money. Furthermore, you will need to determine if there will be a penalty for withdrawing any funds early.
Finally, you will need to determine if you are entitled to any survivor or death benefits. Each plan is different. Upon the entry of a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage, a Court will enter what is called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) or Qualified Illinois Domestic Relations Order (QILDRO). Said Orders are send to the retirement or pension company’s who then determine what the percentage amount to the spouse would be. If the QILDRO or QDRO provides for any survivor benefits, that will be listed on there. Otherwise, you would not be entitled to one.
It is important to follow up with your attorney and the retirement/pension plan to ensure that your paperwork has been processed and that you have paid any processing fees. Failure to follow up on QILDRO’s or QDRO’s may result in not having your interest protected, and once your spouse vests, your spouse will receive a regular pension/retirement fund without the ex-spouse’s portion deducted. Follow up with an attorney to make sure that all of your paperwork has been processed and your rights protected.