What happens to my pension during divorce?

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich (WOTV) – If you or your spouse are eligible or are already receiving retirement benefits from a current or past job, it is generally considered to be an asset of the marriage if it was earned during the marriage. That means that you are entitled to half of the pension benefits, or if you have the pension, your soon to be ex is entitled to half of your pension benefits.There are different types of retirement benefits, both traditional pensions and 401K plans. Both qualify as marital assets and can be divided during divorce proceedings.

First you need to find out how much has been accrued and what the pension is worth. That can be accomplished by contacting the pension plan administrator. Some pensions mail out an annual benefit statement. At the same time you want a copy of a description of the plan that includes the rules. The rules should set out how and when the pension is claimed, whether there are survivor benefits available and whether there is a cost of living adjustment involved.

When checking into pension plans you also want to check into whether or not there are more then one pension that has been earned. Most plans provide benefits after 5 to 10 years of work. If your spouse has changed jobs he may be eligible for more then one pension upon retirement.

If a pension is available as a marital asset make sure that your attorney contacts the plan’s administrator for information on how the Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or QUADRO, is to be filed. Often companies have their own system and forms they require in order to split up a pension’s assets and they must be followed and files precisely. Any error can hold up the split and require that the QUADRO be resubmitted.

One of the issues you want to discuss with your attorney is whether the amount that is to be paid to you from a spouse’s pension is based on the total benefit from the date of retirement, the date he is eligible to retire, the date he left employment with the company or the date of the divorce. Often, a survivor’s benefit is included that pays a portion of the retirement benefit should the person who earned it dies. Your attorney should check to see if this is the case because ex-spouses.

Nothing herein constitutes a legal opinion.