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New Hampshire divorce lawyers

Negotiating Survivor Annuities

New Hampshire Divorce Lawyers Discuss Negotiating Survivor Annuities

New Hampshire divorce lawyersAccording to New Hampshire divorce attorney Michaila M. Oliveira at the Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman PLLC, New Hampshire case law gives concrete guidance on how to divide vested retirement benefits, including pensions, 401Ks, IRAs, and other retirement assets in the event of divorce. But what about those optional additional benefits that may be offered as part of a spouse’s retirement plan but may not be included in the valuation of the retirement asset for purposes of judicial division? Often these provide a benefit that can be negotiated into a divorce – either as a voluntary benefit provided to the former spouse or in exchange for some other asset/benefit.

Survivor annuities are one of the optional benefits that may be offered as part of an employee retirement plan. The importance of such a benefit is often only clear long after a divorce is finalized.  Survivor annuities are a benefit that allows a designated survivor to receive a monthly benefit equal to a defined percentage of an employee’s pension after the employee has died. The designated survivor then receives this benefit until his/her own death.

Generally, when an employer offers a survivor annuity as part of an employee’s retirement benefits package, the employee must actively “elect” or choose to purchase the annuity option. Often, election is done at the time of retirement, however, this is not true of all survivor annuities, particularly the annuity available to US military members. Survivor annuities generally come with a separate monetary cost.

The most important practical consideration for dealing with survivor annuities in a divorce is that the annuity, almost universally among the all of the particular benefit plans available, must specifically be addressed in the Decree of Divorce. If the annuity is not addressed within the Decree, then it may be near impossible for a surviving former spouse to collect the benefit – even if the parties planned for that to happen.

Below is a description of three of the more common survivor annuities that may be encountered in a New Hampshire divorce:

Federal Employees
Eligible federal government employees have the option to elect to purchase the FERS survivor annuity. There are two levels of FERS annuities – the full survivor annuity and the reduced survivor annuity.  While the term “full” survivor annuity would lead one to believe that the surviving present or former spouse would receive 100% of the employee’s pension, that is incorrect. The full annuity, at the time this article was published, pays 50% of the employee’s pension to their designated survivor after the employee’s death. The cost to elect this full survivor annuity is 10% of the employee’s pension payment per month from the date of retirement through the date of death. The reduced annuity pays 25% of the employee’s pension. The cost to elect the reduced survivor annuity is 5% of the employee’s pension payment per month from the date of retirement through the date of death. If the employee is married at the time of election, the employee will need his/her spouse’s written permission to choose anything other than the full annuity.

Federal employees may also elect not to purchase any of the FERS survivor annuity options. Again, if the employee is married at the time of election, the employee will need his/her spouse’s written permission to choose this option. An important consideration when choosing to purchase any of the FERS survivor annuities is that, after the employee’s death, if the designated surviving spouse is not receiving a survivor annuity benefit then they will not be eligible for FEHB health insurance.

State Employees
Eligible New Hampshire state government employees have the option to select a reduced pension under a “Survivorship Option” to provide a lifetime pension to a designated survivor. An employee may designate a single beneficiary or multiple beneficiaries, although this option is limited to the employee’s spouse and children. In the case of multiple designated beneficiaries, the employee must specify a distribution percentage for each beneficiary on the retirement application. Cost-wise, the amount of the reduction in the member’s retirement pension will depend on a number of factors.

State employees have a number of different survivor annuity options available to them, with police and fire employees having their own additional options beyond those available to all employees.

Of the common survivor annuity programs described in this article, the New Hampshire Retirement System has the most options available and accordingly the most variability in potential value for a former spouse.

US Military
The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) is the survivor annuity associated with military retired pay. If the service member or retiree dies first, the spouse or former spouse survivor is eligible to receive 55% of the selected base amount (usually the full pension) for the remainder of his or her life.

A major issue attorneys negotiating SBP benefits should be aware of is the Former Spouse SBP deadline. To effectuate coverage, the service member or retiree must file a DD Form 2656-1 with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service retired pay center within one year of the order which awards the SBP (typically the Decree of Divorce).

The New Hampshire divorce lawyers at Manning & Zimmerman Law will also consider the issue of remarriage. If the former spouse has any plans for remarriage (or even if they don’t have such plans at the time of the divorce), be sure to remind him/her about the “remarriage penalty.” Remarriage of the former spouse before he/she turns 55 suspends his/her SBP coverage. Coverage can be reinstated, however, if the remarriage ends under certain conditions.

For the service member spouse, if the former spouse is alive and set to receive SBP benefits per the parties’ Decree of Divorce, then if the service member remarries, the service member cannot elect any SBP coverage for their new spouse. If the former spouse is alive at the time of the service member’s remarriage, but the former spouse’s benefit is suspended due to his or her own remarriage, then the service member may only obtain eligibility to make a new SBP election by returning to court to obtain a modification of the prior court order requiring SBP coverage.

The New Hampshire divorce lawyers at Manning & Zimmerman Law handling divorces where survivor annuities may be an issue will be sure to research the particular requirements of the issuing employer before entering into any agreements regarding those annuities. The particular language used in the Decree of Divorce may be the difference between a surviving former spouse successfully collecting the survivor annuity and their claim being denied by the issuing employer.

Contact the New Hampshire divorce lawyers at Manning & Zimmerman Law

The New Hampshire divorce lawyers at Manning & Zimmerman Law would be pleased to discuss your matter with you and be your partner throughout the process. Our firm is experienced and prepared to deal with any situation that may arise. For a free consultation, please feel free to call us at (603) 210-4464, send us an email to info@MZLawNH.com, or reach out to us using the “contact us” or chat feature on our website.

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New Hampshire Divorce Attorneys: Inherited Marital Property

Is my inheritance considered marital property?

new hampshire divorce attorneysAccording to the New Hampshire divorce attorneys at the Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman, marital property includes anything and everything owned by either of the parties. This includes homes titled in only one party’s name, retirement funds, and yes, even inherited funds or property. It does not matter when (even if the property was purchased or received prior to the marriage) or how the property was purchased. Everything goes into the pot to be divided.

New Hampshire Divorce Law

The definition of marital property is found in New Hampshire law at RSA 458:16-a, which states:

Property shall include all tangible and intangible property and assets, real or personal, belonging to either or both parties, whether title to the property is held in the name of either or both parties. Intangible property includes, but is not limited to, employment benefits, vested and non-vested pension or other retirement benefits, or savings plans. To the extent permitted by federal law, property shall include military retirement and veterans’ disability benefits.

New Hampshire Supreme Court Decision

More particularly, the New Hampshire Supreme Court specifically addressed inheritances  in its decision In the Matter of Henry and Henry, writing:

To the extent that the respondent asserts that the trial court erred as a matter of law by dividing assets that the respondent inherited from his parents during the marriage, we disagree. By statute, marital property subject to equitable distribution “shall include all tangible and intangible property and assets, real or personal, belonging to either or both parties, whether title to the property is held in the name of either or both parties.” [citation omitted]. This statutory definition of marital property subject to equitable distribution does not exclude inherited property “belonging to either or both parties.” [citation omitted]

Dividing marital property “equitably” vs. “equally”

However, just because all funds, interests, and property belonging to either party can be divided by the court, it doesn’t mean the court will do so.  The New Hampshire divorce attorneys at Manning & Zimmerman Law know that state law allows the court to divide marital property “equitably” and equitably does not always mean “equally.” The courts have wide discretion to deviate from an equal distribution based on a number of factors including, but not limited to, the age of the parties, the length of the marriage, and the earning capacity of the parties. Every division is based on the particular facts and circumstances of the marriage being dissolved.

For questions about divorce, contact the New Hampshire divorce attorneys at Manning & Zimmerman today

The New Hampshire divorce attorneys at Manning & Zimmerman Law would be pleased to discuss your matter with you and be your partner throughout the process. Our firm is experienced and prepared to deal with any situation that may arise. For a free consultation, please feel free to call us at (603) 210-4464, send us an email to info@MZLawNH.com, or reach out to us using the “contact us” or chat feature on our website.

To subscribe to our newsletter, click here. We are also on Facebook and you can follow us on Twitter.

Experienced • Knowledgeable • Committed to Justice

Normand, a New Hampshire Divorce Client

Normand, a New Hampshire Divorce Client

“Before I hired a New Hampshire divorce attorney to represent me in what I knew would be a very contentious divorce, I interviewed 4 other law firms. After a personal meeting with Anna, I knew I had the right lawyer. Anna listened and understood my situation. She explained in very explicit language what I could expect and the time and expense it would take to win my case. She fulfilled her duties while winning my case. I was very happy with her professionalism and hired her a second time just recently to represent me on another matter. It was similarly successful and I would not hesitate to use Anna’s services again. I highly recommend her. “

New Hampshire divorce attorney
New Hampshire attorney Anna Goulet Zimmerman

Contact a New Hampshire Divorce Attorney for a Free Consultation

If you are in need of the services of an experienced New Hampshire divorce attorney, contact Anna Goulet Zimmerman. Anna has more than 20 years experience representing divorce and family law clients. She would be glad to speak with you about your case.

For a free consultation, contact the Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman at (603) 239-2489, complete a request for a consultation on our website, or send us an email.

To subscribe to our newsletter, click here. We are also on Facebook and you can follow us on Twitter.

Experienced  *  Knowledgeable  *  Personally Committed to Justice

Attorney Michaila Oliveira Joins Manning & Zimmerman

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Attorney Michaila Oliveira

MANCHESTER, N.H. – Jan. 9, 2017 – – The Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman, PLLC is pleased to announce that Michaila Oliveira has joined the firm as an associate attorney. A graduate of the prestigious Daniel Webster Scholar program at the University of New Hampshire School of Law. Attorney Oliveira served as a judicial intern with the New Hampshire Family Division. Attorney Oliveira focuses her practice on all areas of family law, including divorce, parenting rights, post-divorce modification and enforcement, guardianships, restraining orders, and child support matters. She is admitted to practice in New Hampshire federal and state courts and is a member of the New Hampshire Bar Association, the Merrimack County Bar Association, the New Hampshire Women’s Bar Association, and the New Hampshire Association for Justice.

The Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman, PLLC is a personal injury and family law firm located in the historic district of Manchester, New Hampshire. The firm is committed to representing those who have been injured through no fault of their own, as well as those needing representation in divorce and family law matters.

Founding partners Maureen Raiche Manning and Anna Goulet Zimmerman have a combined 50 years of practice in the law and each has served a term as president of the New Hampshire Association for Justice. Attorney Manning, who was the inaugural president of the New Hampshire Women’s Bar Association, is a faculty member at the Keenan Ball Trial College where she instructs other attorneys in trial, advocacy, and settlement skills. Attorney Zimmerman is the author of Divorce in the Trenches,  a guide to military divorces, published in the Bar Journal of the New Hampshire Bar Association.

Contact New Hampshire Family Law Attorney Michaila Oliveira

Attorney Oliveira may be reached at (603) 624-7200, by email at info@manningzimmermanlaw.com, or by selecting the “contact us” feature on the firm’s website.

 

NH Divorce Lawyers Explain Collaborative Law

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Collaborative law is a process in which the parties in a divorce (or other family law matters) agree to work through the issues in dispute together, instead of looking to the courts for resolution through traditional litigation. After agreeing to proceed with the collaborative process, both parties will need NH divorce lawyers. The lawyers should be trained in collaborative law and will sign a participation agreement. As a part of the participation agreement, the parties agree that if they are unable to resolve their disagreements and resort to litigation, both parties will be required to obtain other NH divorce lawyers. This process ensures that everyone is working together collaboratively, without the threat of litigation.

In addition to attorneys, other professionals are often used in the collaborative process. A financial advisor might be retained to help sort through the finances to understand the consequences of certain financial decisions. A mental health professional might be involved as a coach to help with communication, conflict resolution or other issues. A parenting coordinator or children’s advocate may also be utilized. The attorneys and parties will work together to determine what professionals are needed and at what step in the process, in light of the specific requirements of a given case.

A primary benefit of collaborative law is allowing the parties to control what is going to happen in their case. Especially regarding children, no judge can know better than the parents what is going to work best for their children. Courts will issue orders believed to be in the child’s best interest. The end result, however, is often an order which neither parent believes is best for their family.

The collaborative process is intended to be cooperative instead of adversarial. As a result, the parties are often left with a much better working relationship. This creates the ability to more effectively co-parent their children. The children also benefit if their parents are able to work together without subjecting the family to stressful legal proceedings.

For more information, visit the Collaborative Law Alliance of New Hampshire or the International Association of Collaborative Law Professionals.

Contact Experienced NH Divorce Lawyers

If you are wondering whether collaborative law might be right for your case, call the Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman PLLC at (603) 624-7200 for a free consultation. We may also be reached by email at info@MZLawNH.com, or by using the “contact us” or chat feature on our website.


Anna Goulet Zimmerman is certified as a collaborative law attorney and is a member of both the Collaborative Law Alliance of New Hampshire and the International Association of Collaborative Law Professionals. This allows Anna to handle collaborative law cases in addition to traditional litigation.