Court Handles Division of Retirement Account Upon Divorce

March 15, 2010 | Erin Herbold


In this divorce dispute, the wife claimed that the trial court should have divided her husband’s retirement account equally between them. Here, the parties were married for nearly twenty-two years. The case proceeded to a trial on financial issues because the husband’s retirement account had been liquidated prior to trial and the proceeds were used to pay outstanding bills of the marriage. However, neither party had “clean hands” in the financial arrangements of the marriage. The wife had filed a separate 2007 tax return, resulting in a $5000 refund for her and a $14,000 tax liability for her husband. The trial court determined that since the retirement money was used to pay joint liabilities, the wife was not entitled to an equal division. Further, the court ordered the parties to consult a tax professional regarding the advisability of filing an amended 2007 tax return. 

The wife appealed stating that the retirement account should have been equally divided and that amending the tax return was unfair, because her husband owed back child support. The Iowa Court of Appeals reviewed the case and found the trial court’s asset division to be equitable, noting that the division of a retirement account was not an absolute requirement under the law. “The allocation of a pension, like the allocation of all other property interests, comes only after the pension has been considered in the overall scheme of an equitable division.” Further, the appellate court found the idea of consulting a tax preparer advisable in the parties’ case. 

Additionally, the court noted that the issue of child support is a separate issue and should be dealt with in the context of the Iowa Child Support Recovery System. In re Marriage of Cooper, No. 0-027/09-0483, 2010 Iowa App. LEXIS 131 (Iowa Ct. App., Mar. 10, 2010).