After years of marriage, you and your spouse decide to divorce. You understand that a court may split your assets evenly, but you worry as to how your hard-earned pension plan will face division between you and your ex-spouse.
Understanding that California operates under a rule of equitable distribution of assets during a divorce is key to interpreting the quantity of your pension plan subject to split. Know that the court works to separate assets fairly, rather than a 50-50 division, should a judge decide that certain assets belong to you and your spouse. Because dividing pension plans and assets during divorce may prove complicated, hiring an experienced attorney is wise when dealing with your property and your future.
Community property and pension plans
When a court determines equitable distribution, it looks at multiple factors of your assets. Depending on when you acquired the assets as well as their value, a judge holds the authority to property to you or your ex-spouse.
- The property available for separation only includes community property. Community property involves assets obtained during the time of your marriage up until your separation, which is usually indicated by a spouse moving out before divorce proceedings finalize.
- Property unavailable for split includes separate property, or assets obtained before your marriage or after your separation.
According to California law, your pension falls in the category of community property. The amount of pension subject to split equally between you and your ex-spouse includes only the money paid into your retirement plan during your marriage. So long as you put money into your pension plan before your divorce, you may have money to divide.
QDRO/DRO plans and attorneys
If your pension is subject to split based on community property laws, you must draft a special order to divide the money.
- A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) should be used for private pension plans, and a Domestic Relations Order (DRO) should be used for federal and state pension plans. Both documents designate how much money goes to each spouse.
Using an attorney during the divorce process proves essential, but when splitting important pension assets, attorneys provide the security and knowledge to guide and draft all required documents. In addition, having an experienced individual aiding you throughout your divorce process may help you focus on your emotional and financial health, while he or she focuses on your asset rights.