What You Should Know About Divorce and Pension Rights
Because pensions are under one spouse's name, there can be some confusion as to whether they are divided in a divorce. A divorce attorney can help eliminate confusion and help determine when pensions should be divided or protected.
At Dunsing, Deakins & Galera, LLC, our lawyers work closely with clients to make sure pensions are divided in a divorce when appropriate. Our attorneys are standing by to provide guidance on divorce and pension rights to people living in Denver, Avon, Vail Valley, CO, and surrounding areas. Let’s go over the basics below.
Understanding Pension Rights
Divorcing couples have a right to ownership of the assets that either spouse obtained during a marriage.
When it comes to pensions, this means the spouse who's not named on a pension generally has a right to a portion of that pension. On its surface, this seems simple, but pension rights vary depending on when the pension was acquired.
Are Pensions Divided In a Divorce?
One of the main determining factors in whether a pension is divided is whether the pension was acquired during the marriage.
Like most property or assets acquired during a marriage, pensions that are obtained during the marriage are considered marital assets to be divided in the event of a divorce.
This also means that pensions earned prior to marriage may be excluded from the marital assets and remain with the spouse who earned the pension.
How Are Pensions Divided?
Generally, pensions earned during a marriage are divided in half between both spouses. Any amount earned prior to the marriage or after the dissolution of marriage would be excluded from the marital property and not divided equally between the spouses.
Filing to Divide Pensions
Pensions are not always automatically divided in a divorce. They also may not be evenly divided when the finances of both spouses, assets, or other factors are taken into consideration.
In order to request that a pension be divided in a divorce, a document called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) should be filed.
The QDRO includes information for the spouse not named on the pension and includes the amount of the pension the spouse is seeking. An approved QDRO allows for the pension to be split so that the ex-spouse can receive funds from the pension when applicable.
Are Pensions Always Split?
Although the courts often divide pensions when they are considered marital assets, there are circumstances when other assets may be awarded instead of the pension, which will remain intact and undivided.
Generally when this happens, the spouse who does not hold the pension account will be given other assets in equal or similar value to the pension. This allows the pension holder to keep their full pension while also benefiting the other spouse.
Of course, pensions that were earned prior to a marriage may also be excluded and not subject to division during a divorce. These numerous exceptions and distinctions are why it’s so important to speak with a divorce attorney for legal guidance.
Contact the Attorneys of Dunsing, Deakins & Galera, LLC
For questions to your answers about divorce and pension rights, we welcome you to schedule a consultation online with one of our divorce attorneys, or to call our law firm at (303) 758-8981.