Dividing a Retirement Account in a Divorce

The division of a retirement account in a divorce can be difficult and confusing, even for experienced attorneys. Take, for example, the attorneys working on a case entitled Granger v. Granger, 2016 UT App 67. In Granger, Husband and Wife were both represented by family law attorneys who had been practicing for over ten years. During the trial, both Husband’s and Wife’s attorney agreed that the Husband’s 401k account should be divided according to the Woodward formula.

The Woodward formula refers to a Utah Supreme Court opinion stating that a defined benefit pension plan should be divided between divorcing spouses according to a particular formula. Woodward v. Woodward, 656 P.2d 431 (Utah 1982). The formula for calculating what the non-participant spouse would be entitled to is that whenever the participant chooses to terminate employment, the portion of the benefits subject to division between the parties is the portion of the benefit represented by the number of years of the marriage divided by the number of years of the participant’s employment. The non-participant is entitled to one-half of that portion. The Woodward court used this formula because at the time of the divorce, no present value could have been established, due to the fact that the participant was still working and accumulating benefits at the time of the divorce.

Turning back to the Granger case, after the trial was over, and Husband’s attorney began the process and paperwork involved in dividing the 401k account. In calculating what Wife would be entitled to withdraw, Husband’s attorney used the formula from Woodward, instead of just dividing the martial portion of the 401k in half. By doing this, Husband’s attorney stood to save his client over $36,000. A shrewd move indeed, but one that ended up backfiring on the attorney and his client on appeal.

When Wife’s attorney discovered the Husband’s calculation, and that his client would be losing out on $36,000, he objected and asked the trial court to revise the decree. The problem Wife’s attorney had was that he had already represented to the court that his client agreed to divide the account according to the Woodward formula, and that agreement was binding on the parties. Since Wife’s attorney agreed to divide the account using the Woodward formula, and Husband’s attorney used the Woodward formula in calculating Wife’s share, the trial court denied Wife’s motion to revise the decree. In other words, Wife was stuck with the fact that her attorney had unwittingly stipulated to using a calculation method that cost her $30,000 she ordinarily would have received had her attorney been a little more careful in the language he used.

Wife’s attorney had the following explanation:

I will admit that I stipulated to the Woodward formula. The problem that I’ve always had, and I guess I’ve had different results from all of the court is basically it’s always been my understanding the Woodward formula basically means you just divide whatever contributions were made to the retirement during the marriage.

If this was Wife’s Attorney’s understanding, then why didn’t he specify how the division of the 401k account was to happen, instead of carelessly stipulating to using the Woodward formula? What he should have said is that he stipulated to the contributions made during the marriage to be divided in half. Had he been a little more careful, he would have saved his client the hardship and cost of an appeal.

In our office, we made it our practice to never refer to the division of retirement accounts, “using the Woodward formula.” The Court of Appeals has now confirmed what we knew for quite some time, which is that using the Woodward formula only applied when there was a defined benefit plan and the present value of the benefit was not ascertainable. Woodward simply does not apply to a 401k account, or any other defined contribution plan. On all of our Petitions and Decrees of Divorce, we made it our practice to make it clear exactly how our client wanted the retirement account divided. We never simply referred to the division of a retirement account as a Woodward share, which was the critical error made by Wife’s attorney in this case.

In the end, the Granger decision ended up making the right call, despite the Wife’s attorney’s error and loose use of the term “Woodward formula.” The Granger court ended up sending the case back to the trial court to determine an equitable, or more equal, division of the 401k account, likely a one-half division.

If you have a retirement account to be divided in a divorce case, do not leave it to someone who is not careful about how the division should occur. Carelessness in a decree could end up costing you, as it did the Wife in Granger. At Fontenot Law, we are experienced and careful in dividing divorcing parties’ retirement accounts, and we can help you with your divorce.

 

Personal Injury

Five years ago, I left a job as a defense personal injuryattorney, defending large insurance companies such as Allstate, State Farm, and Liberty Mutual against claims made by personal injury victims. Since then, I have become a very successful personal injury attorney in Bountiful, Utah. My office is in Bountiful because I live in Bountiful, and because I want to be the personal injuryattorney for the people of Bountiful, North Salt Lake, Centerville, and Farmington.

Having worked as apersonal injury attorney for insurance companies, I have extensive experience in evaluating personal injurycases and dealing with the insurance issues that can arise. Every case is unique and needs special attention. The billboard and television commercialpersonal injury attorneys will not give your case the care and attention that our firm will give it, nor will they take an aggressive trial track, as we will. Being willing to try a case, and being a skilled and respected trial attorney as I am, adds value to your personal injury case, which means more money for you. Do not use an attorney that is not accustomed to trying cases and being in the courtroom. Using an unqualified trial attorney will mean less money for you.

I meet with clients personally, and am available to speak with them whenever they need. Your personal injurycase is a serious matter, and it needs to be handled by a serious attorney who has inside knowledge and experience in the personal injury insurance industry. Your personal injury case needs an attorney who is willing to go to trial, and I have done that for my clients time and time again.

Our firm has collected $1.5 million in settlements or verdicts. Unlike other personal injury attorneys, our prior experience as insurance industry lawyers taught us how to handle and document yourpersonal injury case to maximize the value you receive. In addition, we are willing, in particular cases, to charge a reduced contingency fee than what is charged by the average personal injury attorneys, like the ones who advertise on billboards and television. A lower contingency fee means you keep more of your settlement. If you schedule a free consultation with ourBountiful personal injury firm, we can decide together if your personal injury case is appropriate for a reduced contingency fee.

Car Accident

Five years ago, I left a job as a defense car accident attorney, defending large insurance companies such as Allstate, State Farm, and Liberty Mutual against claims made by car accident victims. Since then, I have become a very successful car accident attorney in Bountiful, Utah. My office is in Bountiful because I live in Bountiful, and because I want to be the caraccident attorney for the people of Bountiful, North Salt Lake, Centerville, and Farmington.

Having worked as acar accident attorney for insurance companies, I have extensive experience in evaluating car accidentcases and dealing with the insurance issues that can arise. Every case is unique and needs special attention. The billboard and television commercialcar accident attorneys will not give your case the care and attention that our firm will give it, nor will they take an aggressive trial track, as we will. Being willing to try a case, and being a skilled and respected trial attorney as I am, adds value to your car accident injury case, which means more money for you. Do not use an attorney that is not accustomed to trying cases and being in the courtroom. Using an unqualified trial attorney will mean less money for you.

I meet with clients personally, and am available to speak with them whenever they need. Your car accident case is a serious matter, and it needs to be handled by a serious attorney who has inside knowledge and experience in the car accident insurance industry. Your car accident case needs an attorney who is willing to go to trial, and I have done that for my clients time and time again.

Our firm has collected $1.5 million in settlements or verdicts. Unlike other car accident attorneys, our prior experience as insurance industry lawyers taught us how to handle and document yourcar accident case to maximize the value you receive. In addition, we are willing, in particular cases, to charge a reduced contingency fee than what is charged by the average car accident attorneys, like the ones who advertise on billboards and television. A lower contingency fee means you keep more of your settlement. If you schedule a free consultation with ourBountiful car accident firm, we can decide together if your caraccident case is appropriate for a reduced contingency fee.

Auto Injury

Five years ago, I left a job as a defense auto injury attorney, defending large insurance companies such as Allstate, State Farm, and Liberty Mutual against claims made by auto injury victims. Since then, I have become a very successful auto injury attorney in Bountiful, Utah. My office is in Bountiful because I live in Bountiful, and because I want to be the auto injury attorney for the people of Bountiful, North Salt Lake, Centerville, and Farmington.

Having worked as anauto injury attorney for insurance companies, I have extensive experience in evaluating auto injurycases and dealing with the insurance issues that can arise. Every case is unique and needs special attention. The billboard and television commercialauto injury attorneys will not give your case the care and attention that our firm will give it, nor will they take an aggressive trial track, as we will. Being willing to try a case, and being a skilled and respected trial attorney as I am, adds value to your car accident injury case, which means more money for you. Do not use an attorney that is not accustomed to trying cases and being in the courtroom. Using an unqualified trial attorney will mean less money for you.

I meet with clients personally, and am available to speak with them whenever they need. Your auto injury case is a serious matter, and it needs to be handled by a serious attorney who has inside knowledge and experience in the auto injury insurance industry. Your auto injury case needs an attorney who is willing to go to trial, and I have done that for my clients time and time again.

Our firm has collected $1.5 million in settlements or verdicts. Unlike other auto injury attorneys, our prior experience as insurance industry lawyers taught us how to handle and document yourauto injury case to maximize the value you receive. In addition, we are willing, in particular cases, to charge a reduced contingency fee than what is charged by the average auto injury attorneys, like the ones who advertise on billboards and television. A lower contingency fee means you keep more of your settlement. If you schedule a free consultation with ourBountiful auto injury firm, we can decide together if your auto injury case is appropriate for a reduced contingency fee.

Auto Accident

Five years ago, I left a job as a defense auto accident attorney, defending large insurance companies such as Allstate, State Farm, and Liberty Mutual against claims made by auto accident victims. Since then, I have become a very successful auto accident attorney in Bountiful, Utah. My office is in Bountiful because I live in Bountiful, and because I want to be the auto accident attorney for the people of Bountiful, North Salt Lake, Centerville, and Farmington.

Having worked as an auto accident attorney for insurance companies, I have extensive experience in evaluating auto accidentcases and dealing with the insurance issues that can arise. Every case is unique and needs special attention. The billboard and television commercial auto accident attorneys will not give your case the care and attention that our firm will give it, nor will they take an aggressive trial track, as we will. Being willing to try a case, and being a skilled and respected trial attorney as I am, adds value to your auto accident injury case, which means more money for you. Do not use an attorney that is not accustomed to trying cases and being in the courtroom. Using an unqualified trial attorney will mean less money for you.

I meet with clients personally, and am available to speak with them whenever they need. Your auto accident case is a serious matter, and it needs to be handled by a serious attorney who has inside knowledge and experience in the auto accident insurance industry. Your auto accident case needs an attorney who is willing to go to trial, and I have done that for my clients time and time again.

Our firm has collected $1.5 million in settlements or verdicts. Unlike other auto accident attorneys, our prior experience as insurance industry lawyers taught us how to handle and document your auto accident case to maximize the value you receive. In addition, we are willing, in particular cases, to charge a reduced contingency fee than what is charged by the average auto accident attorneys, like the ones who advertise on billboards and television. A lower contingency fee means you keep more of your settlement. If you schedule a free consultation with ourBountiful auto accident firm, we can decide together if your auto accident case is appropriate for a reduced contingency fee.

Alimony in Utah Divorce Cases

Alimony in Utah Divorce Cases

For divorcing couples, alimony is often a highly contentious issue. In the most common situation where alimony is at stake, one of the couples is a high earner, and the other is a relatively low earner.

Upon divorce, the higher earner believes that since the marriage is over, he should no longer be required to financially support the other spouse.

At the same time, the spouse making a claim for alimony believes that her years of sacrifice and contributions to the marriage warrant compensation and support even after the marriage is over.

Utah law allows for alimony to be awarded, and in most cases, an alimony settlement will be reached that both parties agree is fair in both the amount and the duration. If the case goes to trial, the judge will apply the alimony statute Utah Code 30-3-5(8)-(10) and a number of appellate cases to determine whether alimony should be awarded, how much should be awarded, and how long the alimony should be paid.
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Complex Divorce Issues

The Complexities of Divorce & Family Law

In a Utah divorce case, marital property and debt are to be divided equitably. Although this is a seemingly simple standard, there can be many complications that arise.

For example, in marriages of long duration, it can be difficult to determine what property is martial and what property is separate. Property acquired during the marriage is martial property.

Property acquired before the marriage, or by gift or inheritance, are separate property. The question of whether a spouse’s gift or inheritance has remained separated property is highly fact intensive, and the trial court must weigh the evidence and make the determination. Stonehocker v. Stonehocker, 2008 UT App 11, ¶ 29.

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child custody attorney

The Importance of Hiring a Child Custody Attorney Immediately

As a parent, you must always look out for the best interests of your child. During a divorce, this task becomes more difficult, as you and your spouse may both believe you know what’s best for the child, yet your views are different.

For this reason, it’s important to hire a child custody attorney to assist you.

Following are a few of the many reasons people need to retain the services of a family law attorney right away.

Financial Reasons

You need to ensure you’ll be able to care for your child properly, and finances play a large role in this. Although you may be hesitant to spend money on this service, an attorney specializing in family law works to make certain the parent having primary custody of the child has the funds to support him or her.

While both parties’ financial situations will change drastically as a result of the divorce, children of the marriage should be impacted as little as possible.

Determining Child Custody Custody

Parents need to find an arrangement that works for all parties and allows the child to see both parents for a reasonable amount of time. One parent may threaten to take the child and run away or make unfounded claims about abuse or neglect.

The child custody attorney investigates these claims to guarantee the child’s safety and works with the court to provide both parents access. The only exception will typically be when abuse or neglect charges are substantiated or one parent is incarcerated.

Complex Child Custody Cases

Does your child have a physical or emotional condition that needs to be recognized by the court? In situations such as this, legal representation is desperately needed.

Many judges don’t understand how the child’s condition will impact various aspects of the case, and the attorney brings in specialists who can address these issues and ensure the court understands their impact on the case. This helps to ensure the child obtains the services, care, and financial resources he or she needs.

An experienced attorney understands the nuances of child custody cases. They make sure no aspect is overlooked and the rights of their client are protected while the best interests of the child remain the focus. Don’t attempt to take your child custody case on alone. The consequences of doing so may be disastrous for not only you, but your children as well.

Our consultations are always free, and our fees are reasonable.

For a Free Case Evaluation and Consultation, Call (801) 312-9330.
Our Family Law firm is located at 1355 North Main St, Ste 8, Bountiful, Utah 84010.

Divorce Lawyer Bountiful Utah Courtroom

The Most Important Things to Keep in a Divorce

The most important things to keep during a divorce are your good judgment, self-perception, and self-control. If you can maintain those parts of your personality throughout a divorce, you are putting yourself in a position to have a successful divorce case.

But remember, each case has its own definition of success. Sometimes, the most important part of a divorce case is not what each spouse gets, but how much money they spend in the process of getting the divorce and what the financial condition is of the parties is when the divorce is over.

Some issues are very much worth fighting over, such as custody, or situations involving abuse. On the other hand, other issues are not worth fighting over because either the law clearly defines what the outcome should be, or because the asset being fought over is insignificant when you truly examine it.

It is an anomaly in a divorce case that divorcing spouses can spend $3,000 in legal fees fighting over assets that worth less in both economical and emotional terms. Avoiding bad decisions like these takes good judgment, an ability to really examine what is truly behind why you are seeking certain objectives in a divorce, and the self-control to not let anger override your objectivity and rationality.

Our Bountiful Divorce Law firm will always take the position your hire us to take. And we will fight tenaciously for your position and your interests. However, we will also attempt to advise you properly so you can make the right call with regard to your positions.

Our over-arching goal as a firm is to maintain our credibility and dependability not only with our clients, but also with the judiciary, so that whenever we stand before a commissioner or judge, what we say will be viewed as authoritative and credible.

If you are looking for the right divorce lawyer to represent you, it will cost you nothing to call us and come in and talk to us about your case and see if you believe we will be the right fit for you and your case.

Our consultations are free, and our fees are reasonable.

For a Free Case Evaluation and Consultation, Call (801) 312-9330.
Our Bountiful Divorce Law firm is located at 1355 North Main St, Ste 8, Bountiful, Utah 84010.