What is a QDRO? How Are Retirement Accounts Handled in a Divorce?

How to Ensure You’re Getting (or Protecting) Your Fair Share

If you are facing a divorce, you’re likely concerned about how your “assets” or simply, the things that you and your spouse own together, will be divided. In California, property is categorized before it is divided. Everything that the two of you own will be designated as “community property” or “separate property”. One of the most valuable things people own is their 401(k), IRA, or other retirement accounts, so it’s very important to closely examine how money in a retirement account will be divided.

How Are Assets Divided in a Divorce?

Obviously if you have $1000 in cash, each person would take $500. However, the reality of property division is that almost NO asset is that straightforward. Houses, cars, savings accounts that existed before the marriage all create their own unique challenges in determining how to fairly categorize and then divide them. IRAs, 401(k) and other retirement accounts used to create a challenge because they have a unique tax status and cannot be “liquidated”, meaning you typically pay early-withdrawal penalties if you deduct money from certain types of retirement accounts.

How Are Retirement Accounts Divided?

The QDRO, or Qualified Domestic Relations Order is a special court order to divide the 401(k), IRA, or other retirement account without changing the account’s tax status. Instead, the retirement account is split into two accounts and then renamed for the individual spouses.

Will the Retirement Account Be Divided 50/50?

That is a question of how the funds in the retirement accounts will be categorized; community property or separate property. While each case is unique, generally the funds would be considered community property and would be split 50/50 if the income that contributed to the retirement account was earned while the two spouses were married.

Could My Spouse Have Retirement Accounts I Don’t Know About?

It’s possible. If you suspect that your spouse is hiding money or that there are accounts you are unaware of, talk to a lawyer today. If you choose to work with us, we will do a detailed financial overview of your situation and ensure that you are getting the funds that you are entitled to.

Beverly Hills Divorce Lawyer – Experienced in Retirement Accounts and Complex Financial Situation

No matter what type of complex financial situation you are facing in your divorce, we can help. We have experience in handling very large asset division cases and work with a network of financial experts and forensic accountants when needed. At The Law Offices of Michael L. Maguire & Associates, our team will work with you each step of the way towards the best possible outcome. To learn more about how we can help you, contact our office today.

Four More Reasons Why You Should Have a Divorce Lawyer on Your Side

In the previous article, we discussed the first four reasons that you should have a divorce lawyer on your side:

  1. Expert Advice
  2. Avoiding Common Mistakes
  3. Reduce Stress
  4. Keeping on an Appropriate Timeline

In this article, we will continue with four more reasons it is important to have an effective and experienced family law attorney on your side when working through the divorce process.

1. Divorce Agreement that is Clear, Binding and Enforceable

You do not want to work your way through the entire divorce process only to go to family law court and have your agreement not be approved because of mistakes or omissions. Even worse, is having the agreement approved only to find out that there is something that needs to be changed, which (see below) is not easy. With an experienced divorce lawyer protecting your interests you can be confident that the divorce agreement produced will be accepted by the family law court. You can also count on a divorce agreement that protects your interests both now and into the foreseeable future. There are times when life changes require that an agreement be modified, but you do not want to have to go through the difficult and expensive modification process because you simply made an error.

2. Understand Your Rights

Every divorce is unique as every set of divorcing spouses has a unique financial situation, a unique relationship with their children, and ideas about what an ideal outcome is. When you talk to someone else who has gotten divorced, their situation could be completely different. Every day we talk to people who are 100% sure about how something is going to work out…be that a custody arrangement, a financial arrangement a divorce timeline or how often they will see their kids. All due respect to each and every one of our clients, but they come in with misinformation that is affecting the way that they approach their divorce. Our job is to clarify their situation, help them understand how the law applies to them and give them options for moving forward. If you have not talked to an attorney, do not take anything for granted. Every divorce is unique. Come in and talk to the experienced divorce attorneys at The Law Offices of Michael L. Maguire & Associates so we can build a strategy and pursue the best path for you and your children.

3. Help Both Parents Maintain a Role in their Children’s lives

Along with financial issues, how the custody arrangement will be handled is often the most contentious detail to settle in a divorce. There are extremely rare cases (where abusive behavior or extensive and documented issues with chemical / substance abuse are involved) where the California family law court will limit or prohibit one parent from seeing the children. However, in almost all custody arrangements parents are expected to work with each other. You will need to agree to and honor your child custody agreement with your ex-spouse. The California family law courts will look to protect the best interest of the child in custody arrangements. Having parents who fight or purposely violate the custody agreement is not in anyone’s best interest. An experienced child custody attorney will help you protect your parental rights, and also can help you hold your ex-spouse accountable if they are not honoring the custody agreement.

4. Correcting Mistakes from a Divorce Decree is Difficult

Divorce modifications are necessary at times. If the custody agreement isn’t working, or someone’s employment situation changes, the divorce agreement may need to change as well. However, there is not an easy or quick process to fix minor omissions or mistakes. When you have a divorce agreement that was not prepared by an experienced lawyer, costly mistakes are much more likely.

If you are facing a divorce, having a lawyer on your side protects your interest and ensures that you and your family reach the best possible outcome. For questions about the divorce process in California, or to get started working with the Beverly Hills divorce lawyers at The Law Offices of Michael L. Maguire & Associates contact us today.

Four Reasons Why You Need a Divorce Lawyer on Your Side.

If you are considering getting a divorce, or know you will be going through one soon, you may be looking into lower cost alternatives to hiring an attorney.  Do-it-yourself solutions, un-bundled legal services and different types of mediation are becoming increasingly popular as divorcing couples look for ways to make their divorce as cost-effective as possible.  When soon-to-be divorcing couples see that they can simply download some forms or even share one lawyer they may ask “do I really need a divorce lawyer?” or “how can a divorce lawyer help me?”.

At the Beverly Hills Law Office of Michael L. Maguire & Associates, we work with people throughout the Los Angeles metro area who are facing divorce.  We do not believe in a “one size fits all” approach, rather we custom tailor a plan specific to your specific family situation.  Whether or not there are minor children involved, where your ex-spouse will reside and your shared financial situation all have a dramatic impact on how your divorce should be handled.  Trusting a “one size fits all” approach, or trying to handle your divorce on your own can lead to very expensive and very difficult problems down the road.  When you hire a lawyer to represent you, it can seem expensive compared to lower cost and do-it-yourself solutions.  However, a mistake when handling your own divorce can cost you tens of thousands of dollars for years to come.  Having a dedicated, experienced lawyer looking out solely for your interest and your children’s interest is the best way to reach the best outcome and ensure that you do not have to re-visit key pieces of your divorce because mistakes were made.

The following article explains four additional reasons that it pays to have a lawyer on your side.  If you are facing a divorce and would like to speak with the experienced attorneys at The Law Offices of Michael L. Maguire & Associates, do not hesitate to contact us.

1. Expert Advice

If you were climbing Mt. Everest, you’d likely go with a sherpa.  On vacation in New York City you would probably hire a cab instead of trying to navigate the busy streets on your own.  There are countless examples of how we rely on a guide with meaningful experience, especially when we are up against a difficult challenge.  Going through a divorce is no different; you likely have never gone through the divorce process before.  The stakes around your divorce are simply too high to allow it to be a “learning experience”.  Trust an experienced divorce attorney to make sure that you can work through the challenges of a divorce and arrive at the best possible outcome for you and your family.

2. Avoid Costly Mistakes

Do you understand the nuances between community property, separate property and quasi-community property?  What about assets that have changed in value during the duration of the marriage?  How do you take retirement accounts or items with sentimental value and split them 50/50?  What about outstanding debt?  A mortgage?  Tax liability?  The fact is, there are a lot of difficult, and potentially very costly issues that can arise even from a “simple” divorce.  An experienced attorney on your side gives you the confidence and knowledge to make the right decisions each step of the way.  Don’t make a mistake that could cost you money and peace of mind for years to come.  Even the smallest oversight or omission could result in a major financial loss for you (or gain for your soon to be ex-spouse).

3. Reduce Stress

No one should expect you to make it through the entire divorce process without feeling some stress.  It’s a massive life change that can turn every important piece of your life up-side down.  When you are wrestling with your personal finances, where you live, the car you drive and the mental and emotional health of your children it would be strange to NOT feel stress during a divorce.  However, there is no reason to be stressed about missing a court deadline or filing incorrect paperwork.  When you have an experienced divorce attorney on your side, you can let go of the worries tied to procedural issues and focus on making sure that you and your children get through the divorce process as easily and stress-free as possible.

4. Keeping on an Appropriate Timeline

Divorces can take as little as a few months, while others can drag on for years.  There are many variables that will  affect how long your divorce takes, but a lack of familiarity with the divorce process should not be one of them.  Working with the divorce lawyers at The Law Offices Michael L. Maguire & Associates in Beverly Hills helps ensure that every step of your divorce stays on schedule.

In our follow up article, we will discuss four more reasons why it’s important to have a family law attorney protecting your interests through the divorce process, including:

  1. Ensuring Your Divorce Agreement is Binding
  2. Understanding Your Rights
  3. Help Both Parents Maintain a Role in their Children’s’ lives
  4. Correcting Mistakes from a Divorce Decree is Difficult

What Happens to a Dog in a Divorce?

January 1st brings a Change in California Law Regarding Pets & Divorce

What was considered “Family Property” will be considered “Community Property”

In most divorces, the two biggest points of conflict are financial issues, and child custody.  However, due to a change in California family law that takes effect on Jan 1, 2019, pets may soon become the third most contested issue in California divorces.

Most pet owners consider their pets a part of the family.  While dogs (and possibly cats) will not get the same treatment and focus that a minor child does in a divorce, they will no longer simply be seen as “family property”, a status that gives them little more standing in California Family Law Court than a big screen TV or an album collection.

Once dogs are considered “family property” that means that a judge may decide which divorcing spouse gets the dog based on who feeds the dog, takes the dog on walks, brings the dog to the vet and generally cares for the dog more.  Obviously all of these issues are open to interpretation, but the fact that a dog is more than simply an item going through the asset division process is likely going to provide a better outcome for divorcing spouses and their pets.

Before the new law, judges didn’t have any very good options for deciding who would get possession of a dog or other family pet.  Some judges tried creative approaches like putting the dog between the divorcing spouses to try to determine who the dog liked best.  In cases where there were two dogs, some judges would simply give each spouse one of the dogs (which is obviously not a solution that would be applied to children as it’s clearly not in their best interest).  This new law should give judges and divorcing spouses a better outcome in terms of ensuring that the decision made is the best decision for the family pet.

While the change in law refers to how a family law judge would view a pet, it’s important to understand that, just like every other decision in a divorce, this is not an issue that begins by being brought before a judge.  Every divorcing couple is asked by the courts to try to work through the key issues before them including asset division, child custody, spousal maintenance and now, who will get the family pet.  Only a very small percentage of divorce cases (where two spouses have exhausted all possible efforts to compromise and come up with a plan) are actually controlled by a family law judge. This is why it’s so critical to work with a divorce lawyer who has a rock solid understanding of California family law and extensive experience negotiating complex issues, even when conflict levels get high.

Who Will Get the Dog in a Divorce?

While there is still no simple answer to this question, the change in law that is coming Jan 1, 2019 will start giving dogs the consideration most people think they deserve, which is a part of the family instead of simply a possession.

If you are facing a divorce (with or without a shared dog or other pet) count on the experience and expertise of Michael Maguire.  To learn more about Michael’s qualifications as a divorce lawyer, click here  and to contact our office and arrange a consultation, click here.

What Divorced Men Wish They Had Done Differently

A man after his divorce

Perspective from Men who went through a divorce.

Whether you are just thinking about divorce, have begun speaking to your spouse to it, or are actively seeking a divorce attorney, managing regret or feelings of hesitation is a big part of divorce for most people. A recent article on Huffington Post interviewed men who had been through their divorce to try to determine what, if anything, they wish they had done differently during their marriage, or while going through the divorce process.

As the full article states, hindsight is 20/20 and it can be very difficult to fix a relationship while you are involved emotionally. Some of the items on the list speak to how men acted while their relationship was unraveling, and others show that sometimes divorce is inevitable, such as when two people get married for the wrong reasons, too fast or too young.

Here are some of the things men who had been through a divorce wished that they had done differently.

I wish I had waited to get married
• I wish I had been honest about my personal fears and struggles
• I wish I had stood up for myself more
• I wish I had truly listened to her because she just wanted to be heard
• I wish I had taken responsibility for my part in our issues

The full text of the article is available here.

If you are considering divorce and feel like you want to speak with a lawyer, either to move forward or to simply have a better understanding of the process and what to expect, the experienced family law attorneys at Michael Maguire and Associates. We can’t guarantee that you’ll never have a regret, or that you may wish you had done some things during the time of your marriage differently, but we can promise that we will work with you through the process in a thoughtful and thorough manner to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your future.  To contact us, click here.

Six Tips for Anyone Facing a Divorce

Beverly Hills Divorce Lawyer

If you have recently decided that you are getting divorced, you are likely feeling overwhelmed by the process ahead of you.  It can feel like you need to choose a divorce lawyer right away, especially if your ex-spouse is already represented.  However, at The Law Offices of Michael L. Maguire & Associates in Beverly Hills, California we encourage people facing a divorce to ensure they are taking the right amount of time to make the best choices.  The decisions you make right in the beginning of your divorce process can have a powerful and lasting effect; make sure you’re understanding the repercussions of your decisions and not rushing into anything.  Here are six tips that can be helpful for someone who is just beginning the divorce process:

1. This isn’t going to happen overnight – Take Your time

Understanding that a divorce takes time will help you manage your way through the process, but also keep a reasonable expectation.  Divorce is certainly more of a marathon than a sprint and you need to pace yourself emotionally, physically, mentally and financially.  Do not rush into any decisions; including the selection of a family lawyer.  You’re going to be working with your divorce lawyer for quite some time, and the lawyer you choose makes difference.  Spending some money to arrange a few consultations is a great investment towards ensuring that you hire the best lawyer for your situation.

2. Expect Ups and Downs. Take Care of Yourself

It’s very normal to go through physical changes during your divorce; gaining weight, losing weight, and feeling anxious are all very normal.  Even if you are “happy you’re getting divorced” it’s still one of the biggest changes a person can go through; self-care is incredibly important.  Make sure you’re eating healthy and not over-doing it with alcohol.  Seeing a therapist is helpful to work through some of the emotional baggage that can come with divorce.  Be careful not to bury yourself in work or other distractions.  Keeping a journal to track your progress and how you feel may be helpful.  Everyone is different, so different things will work for different people,  but the one thing that everyone who is going through a divorce has is common is that they need to monitor their emotions and well-being throughout the process.

3. Remaining civil is beneficial to you, even if your ex is terrible

I get it; you’re getting divorced for a reason… it’s very normal, and you very likely have, some negative feelings towards your ex.  However, a part of getting through a divorce is being able to let go of those negative feelings and focus on your new life.  Getting angry, upset, vindictive, jealous, etc. may seem like the natural thing to do in the moment but it only makes the emotional toll of divorce greater.  Focusing on the issues and working through towards the resolution is the only effort that deserves your energy.

4. Being the favorite parent is not going to benefit your kids

Minor children may express a want to be with one parent instead of the other.  If you are the “favorite” parent it may feel like a win, but the reality is it’s a sign that your children are struggling with how to navigate the emotional process of their parents getting divorced.  Do not let your children hear you bad-mouth the other parent.  Do not engage in conversations you would not want your ex-spouse having with your children.  There are several books and other online resources that can help offer suggestions about how to talk to kids about divorce; for a few suggestions, see this article.

5. Child Support and Parenting Time are two different things

It’s normal for divorcing couples to assume that child support paid from one parent can determine, or cancel, or delay parenting time.  The fact is, child support and parenting time or child custody are two very different things.  Do not deny your ex-spouse’s right to access to their children based on what they have or have not paid in child support.  If you are in a difficult situation we may be able to help you make a motion for temporary support but modifying or refusing to comply with a parenting plan, especially a court-issued parenting plan is a big mistake.

6. Have a budget and a plan

When you talk to a divorce lawyer in an initial consultation, they should be able to provide you with both a plan of how they will navigate your unique situation through the complex California divorce process, as well as an idea of how much it will cost to do so.  No lawyer is going to give you an exact price, there are many variables in a divorce and they are by nature unpredictable.  However, your lawyer should be able to clearly lay out how much they charge per hour, how many hours they believe your case will take, and how much money they need in advance to get started.  Your divorce lawyer should also be able to provide you a general road map of the issues that need to be resolved in your divorce and how they intend to do so.  Be wary of any divorce lawyer who makes guarantees about how much a divorce will cost, exactly what your custody situation will be, or any other detail.  Divorce is a process of discovery, negotiation and making a detailed plan based on the unique situation of the people getting divorced and their children.  A lawyer who over-promises may sound great before you sign up, but it’s a recipe for disaster when the realities of divorce set in.

Do you have questions about getting started with a divorce?  Are you interviewing divorce lawyers in the Los Angeles or greater California area?  The experienced, effective family law and divorce attorneys at  are ready to help you develop a plan and work through the divorce process to achieve the best possible outcome for you and your family.

Six Steps to Follow if you are Facing a Divorce

There are situations where spouses see a divorce coming for years, and other times when one spouse is completely blind-sided when they are served with papers. If you find yourself planning for a divorce, here are six tips that can help you move through the process as effectively and efficiently as possible.

1. Don’t Panic

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by the entire divorce process. While it is certainly a huge adjustment in your life, many others have lived through it, and you will too. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you do not have to process your entire divorce in a day either. Arm yourself with information; there are several online resources available that can help you understand what to expect when getting divorced in California. Do not get wrapped up in gossip or other people’s second-hand understanding of how the law works. Talk to a reputable family law attorney to understand how California family law applies to your situation, and your options for moving forward.

2. Don’t Be Intimidated

It’s common for one spouse, often the spouse with the greater control over the finances in a relationship to suggest that a divorce lawyer is just a big waste of money. This is simply an intimidation tactic. Both parties in a divorce should have legal representation and there should be open communication about assets and bank accounts. Your financial situation should be calculated under California family law, not handed to you by your spouse.

3. Understand the Value of Assets

Houses, boats and cars are all seen as assets, but they also all have great costs to protect and maintain. Often one spouse will be so focused on “winning” a piece of property like a house or a cabin that they have no plan for how they will pay for it or take care of it in the future. Divorce isn’t about winning and losing; it’s about responsibly dividing the assets of two people in a manner that is hopefully beneficial to both of them.

4. Don’t Accept Numbers that Haven’t Been Reviewed

We touched on this above under intimidation, but it bears repeating; do not accept numbers that have been given to you by your spouse. We see cases every year where one spouse will be ready to accept a number that “seems fair” when in reality key assets like retirement accounts or trust payments haven’t been taken into consideration. In plain language, they were about to get ripped off. When you have an experienced lawyer on your side a full and fair financial review can take place so that support numbers are all above board.

5. Make a Realistic Budget

After the divorce, both spouses become their own financial entities. For people who have been married since they were relatively young this can be the first time they are facing certain financial responsibilities like paying a mortgage or income taxes. Those who have little experience with finances and money-savvy spouses alike both can benefit from a well thought out budget. You are starting a new life after your divorce, don’t make the mistake of falling into financial trouble due to lack of planning.

6. Rely on Sound Legal Representation

Hire a divorce lawyer that you feel comfortable with and that is focused on getting the best outcome for you and your family. The decisions that are made during your divorce will affect your financial well-being and your day to day life for years to come. Investing in quality representation and getting the best possible outcome can pay dividends in the future.

If you find yourself facing divorce in the Beverly Hills area and would like to arrange a consultation with the family law attorneys at Michael Maguire & Associates please contact us via email or call the office at 310-275-4444.