Articles Tagged with bankruptcy

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Carolyn Woodruff, JD, CPA, CVA

In re Lawson, 570 B.R. 563 (Bankr. N.D. Ohio 2017)

Facts: A husband and wife filed divorce proceedings in Ohio. Among the marital assets was the husband’s defined contribution retirement plan. The parties read into the record in the Ohio action an agreement that awarded the wife 50% of the plan account. The court approved the agreement. No DRO was immediately entered.

After the divorce case was filed, the wife filed a petition in bankruptcy. The bankruptcy trustee argued that the wife’s interest in the husband’s retirement plan was part of the estate in bankruptcy. He asked the bankruptcy court to authorize him to seek a DRO in state court and to order the husband not to oppose the DRO.

Published on:

Carolyn Woodruff, JD, CPA, CVA

In re Jeffers, No. 14-52328,    B.R., 2017 WL 2838104 (Bankr. N.D. Ohio June 30, 2017)

Facts: A husband and wife divorced in Ohio. The divorce decree awarded the wife an interest in the husband’s retirement benefits.

Before a DRO was entered, the husband filed a petition in bankruptcy under Chapter 13. When a bankruptcy case is filed, all state court actions are automatically stayed. 11 U.S.C. § 362. The wife asked the bankruptcy court to lift the stay so that she could obtain a DRO in state court. The bankruptcy trustee objected.

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Walsh v. Dively, 551 B.R. 570 (W.D. Pa. 2016)

Facts: When husband and wife were divorced in Pennsylvania, they agreed that the wife would receive 50% of the husband’s retirement. The agreement was incorporated into the divorce decree, but no DRO was entered.

The wife then filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy trustee moved in bankruptcy court for authority to ask the state court to issue a DRO. The bankruptcy court denied the motion. The trustee then appealed.

Issue: Should the trustee be permitted to seek a DRO?

Answer to Issue: No

Summary of Rationale: The trustee has a duty to collect property of the estate in bankruptcy.  But retirement plans with an antialienation provision are not part of an estate in bankruptcy. Patterson v. Shumate, 504 U.S. 753 (1992). The retirement plan at issue was governed by ERISA, and it was subject to the statutory antialienation provision in ERISA unless a QDRO was entered. Because a DRO had not even been entered, let alone qualified by the plan, there was no QDRO, and the antialienation provision remained operative. Thus, the pension was not part of the wife’s estate in bankruptcy.

Note: As we shall shortly see, it is quite important that the state court awarded the wife an actual interest in a retirement plan, and not an award of cash she could spend freely for any purpose.

 

In re Kizer, 539 R. 316 (Bankr. E.D. Mich. 2015)

Facts: In a consent judgment of divorce, a court awarded the husband 50% of three retirement accounts owned by the wife. The wife was also awarded the marital home, but required to pay the husband for his interest. Because she lacked the funds to make the payments, she agreed to pay for the home by giving up her interest in the requirement accounts, increasing the husband’s interest to 100%.

QDROs were subsequently entered and approved, directing the administrators of the accounts to transfer to the husband 100% of the balance of certain accounts. The plan administrators complied with the QDROs by giving the husband accounts containing the funds at issue. A finding of fact was made that the husband could make withdrawals from these accounts at any time, without any form of early withdrawal penalty. (The husband claimed that his withdrawals were subject to a penalty, but he failed to produce supporting evidence, even after the court gave the husband additional time.)

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