What happens with pensions when couples divorce?

The process of untangling a long-term marriage is rarely a simple one. The more assets and property that spouses own, the more complicated their divorce. Those in California who have a pension may be wondering if an ex-spouse will be entitled to some of it after a divorce. Although there are a number of scenarios for this type of situation, here’s how a pension could be handled amid divorce.

Pensions and divorce

Things that are owned prior to the marriage are considered individual property, and things that are obtained or earned during the marriage are known as joint or marital property (with a few exceptions). A pension that is earned by one spouse is typically considered to be a marital or joint asset, or at least that part of it that was earned during the marriage. However, how pensions are handled in a divorce is not always cut-and-dried. Unless a spouse is actively receiving a pension and knows the exact details, it may be hard to pinpoint the exact value.

Even though a pension is often considered to be a joint marital asset, it is not always split 50/50. The exact amount varies depending on how much was earned during the marriage. To gain access to a pension, the other spouse must ask for it at the time of the divorce and not at the time of retirement. Once awarded, this is usually accomplished through a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO).

Legal protection

Since California is a community property state, marital property is usually divided 50/50. However, in cases where a spouse is earning a pension, the asset will usually be subject to division during divorce proceedings. This is why obtaining competent and experienced legal representation is critical during this time. A knowledgeable attorney can prove imperative in safeguarding a client’s financial and proprietary interests.