Can I Keep My Pension in My Divorce?
Going through a divorce is bound to affect your finances to a considerable degree. You may have a pension at your workplace, so naturally, you might worry about how your divorce will treat it. You likely want to hold on to as much of your pension as possible or even keep all of it if you can.
Under some circumstances, some of your pension will not be subject to property division. FindLaw explains how some people may protect some of their pension or perhaps all of it while going through divorce.
Your Pension As Separate Property
Keep in mind that money accumulated in your pension during your marriage will more than likely count as marital property. However, the same is not true for money that you had earned while single. So you should be able to keep whatever portion of your pension that counts as separate property.
Negotiate for the Full Pension
Even if you have a sizable amount of your pension that you could lose to your spouse, you might still have a chance to keep it. Your pension is just a single piece of your collective marital property. Instead of splitting your pension, you may negotiate away some assets of equal value in exchange for your spouse’s share. This could be preferable if you have some property that you would rather get rid of if it means you can retain your pension.
Buy Out Your Spouse
As an alternative to negotiating away property, you may find other assets to buy out your spouse. For instance, you and your spouse probably own equity in your marital home. If you have no interest in keeping the home, you might trade your equity for your spouse’s portion of the pension if it is enough. If possible, you may also combine multiple assets that reach the full amount of your spouse’s pension share.
When is a Pension Considered as Marital Property in GA?
Like most things in the US, each state has different laws set up for how they treat the division of property and assets following a divorce. In Georgia, the law operates under a ‘marital property’ method of the law, that attempts to provide an ‘equitable and fair’ distribution of assets.
Other states, meanwhile, try to split assets between the divorcing spouses close to 50/50. Under the equitable distribution method, the courts will consider various factors in determining how to split the assets in a divorce.
Contributing factors that the courts may consider in equitable distribution may include:
- The personal wealth and financial situation of each spouse.
- Whether one spouse paid for the other’s college education.
- Child custody arrangements.
- A history of violence, drug abuse, lack of care for children, or infidelity.
- The housing situation for either ex-spouse.
- And so on…
To better understand how equitable distribution works, and who may actually receive more in the divorce, please contact an experienced divorce lawyer to discuss your case in more detail.
How Do Courts Split Up a Pension in a Divorce?
While the specific court decisions will vary wildly from case to case, typically most judges will issue a court order to fairly divide a retirement account in the event of a divorce. However, pensions do not work the same way, especially if the individual is still employed at the time of their divorce. The employer still manages the benefits of a pension plan, so it isn’t as simple as the court deciding to split assets.
To make up for the benefits locked away within the work pension, courts may require that the individual with the pension pay a higher amount in child support, alimony, or spousal support. Or the court may take from other assets to make up for the assets locked away in the pension under their equitable distribution model of dividing property in a divorce.
In this way, while the pension might not be touched, it might as well be split up between the divorcing adults anyway, as the court may simply seek to offset its value with other assets.
What is a QDRO?
A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) allows for a former spouse to receive a portion of a retirement plan after a divorce. QDROs are complicated and a small error may result in them being declared invalid in a court of law. Please work in tandem with experienced divorce attorneys when considering a QDRO as a legal option.
The spouse who is awarded a portion of a pension (or the offset benefits of said petition) must usually acquire a QDRO. Once it has been carefully filled out, it can be submitted to the courts and the pension plan’s administrators (usually the employers).
Pensions for federal employees are called Court Order Acceptable for Processing (COAP) instead. To understand the differences and to be sure you’ve submitted the proper forms, work with professionals.
Do You Need to Speak with Divorce Lawyers?
Regardless of your estate size, your pension plan, and any feelings of kindness towards your ex, you should consider working with a lawyer when going through a divorce. This is a difficult and exhausting process both emotionally and legally. And you are very close to it, so you may make mistakes.
A lawyer is there not to rake your ex over the coals but to look after your best interests. Please consider speaking with a lawyer when going through divorce proceedings.
Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with Experienced Divorce Attorneys in Georgia Today
The legal team of Family Lawyers of Atlanta has years of experience helping clients through the difficult nature of divorce, retirement plans, pensions, and the distribution of assets. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed when going through something as challenging as this. But please keep in mind that you don’t have to walk this path alone. We are here to help you.
Our law firm offers a free consultation to prospective clients. To speak with a member of our legal staff, please call 404-418-7777.