Government and Public Sector Employees
Government Employees, civil servants, unionized workers, police, firefighters, EMTs, law enforcement, military, and other first responders have special concerns to be considered when spouses divorce. With varying salary, pension, and benefit plans that include life insurance, health insurance, and stricter beneficiary designations, the factors to take into consideration when these couples divorce can be overwhelming, particularly for attorneys not accustomed to working with public servant clients. In addition, other factors also come into play, such as nontraditional work schedules, and unpredictable working hours, both critical factors to take into consideration when determining the division of overall assets, parenting time or child custody schedules. Erin Colgan Law regularly works with divorcing government and public sector employees, and especially the police and firefighter community on Staten Island. We respect those who devote their lives and careers to serving our community, and we dedicate our efforts to achieving a best outcome for you.
Government Pensions and the Division of Assets in Divorce
Many government employees and civil servants have a pension plan among their retirement benefits including retirement plans for the New York City Police Department (NYPD), Fire Department of New York (FDNY), Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) and other civil servants and unionized employees such as state employees, local government employees, school district employees, employees of state and local public authorities, employees of other government corporations.
Fast Fact: Retirement benefits earned during the marriage are considered marital property and are subject to equitable division in New York State. You may also be required to designate a portion of your pension to your former spouse in addition to designating your former spouse as a beneficiary for death benefits.
Prior to marriage, everything you put into your pension remains yours. But even though one spouse may be actively engaged as a police officer, firefighter, or schoolteacher, benefits that accrue after the marriage date – including retirement benefits – belongs to both of you, in most cases equally. And it is not just police, firefighters, or teachers, this applies to all government employees, at the city, state, and federal level, as well as other civil servants and union employees. And to make it more complex, each government employee pension plan is different.
To factor in a pension to the division of assets, we ask the pertinent questions:
- How long have both spouses been married?
- How many years of the government employee’s career corresponds with years of being married?
- As a government employee, are you active or retired? The response may determine available options to the former spouse.
- For some benefits, we need to know what Tier you are employed under to ascertain your benefits package?
- What are the joint and individual debt and asset situations of each spouse?
- What are the incomes of each spouse?
- In what way did both spouses contribute financially to the marriage?
- What are the other assets important to your spouse that can be traded off for some other benefit? Consider assets such as a spouse’s retirement, savings, or property ownership.
NYPD, FDNY, EMT, and First Responder Work Schedules and Working Hours Impact on Divorce Agreements
While many government employees have 9-5 work schedules, police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and other first responders typically don’t. Their working hours and schedules may be unpredictable, are frequently longer, and may include overtime shifts. This may affect the division of assets and child custody agreements. Erin Colgan Law understands the unique situation and requirements that each side of the divorcing couple faces.
Fast Fact: Along with government pension information, specificity about property and assets acquired before the marriage versus during the marriage is needed.
Those working long hours away from the home may not be fully aware of the day-to-day financial and spending decisions made by the spouse running the household. Assets and debts acquired by the couple during the marriage will affect the distribution of assets. Debts incurred during the marriage years will affect the distribution of assets. Credit card debt, mortgage debt, student, and car loans – all will play into the division of assets. And division of assets goes beyond salary to include alimony and spousal support payments calculated with overtime factored in.
NYPD, FDNY, EMT, and First Responder Child Custody Schedules
Fast Fact: Custody schedules need special attention when police and firefighters may work up to 24-hours/day.
Nontraditional work schedules are taken into consideration when determining child custody agreements. And that schedule will be developed in a manner that works for all involved – wife, husband, children. With careers that may impact one’s ability to pick up and drop off children at designated times, scheduling becomes even more important. Coming to the negotiation table with a work schedule in hand will help to develop a schedule that works for all.
Erin K. Colgan Law represents divorcing public sector employees and is well versed in the special considerations involved with their way of life and assets. From pensions to benefit plans, overtime schedules to parenting time and child custody arrangements, our team provides a knowledgeable and confident legal service that is tailored to the special needs of divorcing public servants.