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Do you know how your pension will be divided in your divorce?

Having access to a pension nowadays is fairly rare; but if you do, you could be sitting on an incredibly valuable asset. The only problem is that if your spouse files for divorce, you might only see a fraction of your pension benefits.

As with all marital assets in Florida divorces, pensions are subject to equitable distribution. Unlike other marital property, however, pensions can be incredibly complex and difficult to divide. Understanding how they are divided can mean the difference between getting your fair share and getting less than what you should.

A look at pension plans

As the Governmental Accounting Standards Board explains, pension plans are classified under two main headings:

  • Defined benefit plan - Benefits are received by the employee at or after ending employment in accordance with the terms of the plan.
  • Defined contribution plan - Receipt of benefits depends on how much the employee contributed to the plan as well as other factors.

Valuation can be a challenge

As you probably realize, the time frame in which a pension holder is scheduled to receive their benefits can mean a lot when determining the value of a pension in property division proceedings. Its present and future value depend heavily on how much an employee contributes and whether the pension is:

  • Vested - The employee has full ownership of the pension and the right to its benefits.
  • Unvested (non-vested) - The employee has not earned the right to access their pension benefits.

Furthermore, there is also the issue of when contributions were made to a plan. Were they made prior to marriage and would therefore be considered separate property? Or were they all made during the course of marriage and are considered marital property?

Things to keep in mind

Because pension plans are considered marital property under §61.075 (6) d of the Florida Statutes, they will be subject to equitable distribution. When determining the value of the pension for purposes of property division, you will need to consider:

  • Whether the benefits have become vested
  • At what point the benefits became vested
  • The length of the marriage
  • When contributions were made to the pension

Valuation of complex assets like pensions is not an easy process. It takes skill and in-depth knowledge of the law. Handling the division of pensions on your own is not advised, especially if you want to ensure your fair share of the retirement plan.

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