What happens to a pension in the equitable distribution of assets and debts? The answer depends upon when the pension was earned and whether any part of it was earned during the marriage. If the pension was fully earned before the marriage, it will not be a marital asset. If it was earned during the marriage, it will be a marital asset.  And if only half of the pension was earned during the marriage, one half of it will be a marital asset.

If the pension has a liquidated value on the date the petition for dissolution was filed, then that present value can be included in the calculation of marital assets. If the present value cannot be determined, then the income stream when it is paid out will be marital.

Let us assume a 25 year marriage and the party’s pension was earned over the last 20 years. Then the pension earned through the date of filing is a marital asset. If the plan administrator can provide a present value of the pension as of the date of filing, that amount can be included in the equitable division of assets and debts. One party or the other can take it at the present value and then take the distributions based upon that value when they are available. Or, the income stream from the pension can be divided based upon what it would be as of the date of marriage.

If it is a 10 year marriage and the party’s pension was earned over the last 20 years, only one half of the pension earned through the date of filing is a marital asset. If the pension plan administrator can provide a present value of the pension as of the date of filing, one half of that amount can be included in the equitable division of assets and debts. One party or the other can take the one half of the present value and then take the distributions based upon that one half value when they are available. Or, the income stream from the pension can be divided based upon what it would be as of the date of marriage and the receiving party taking one half of that amount.

There are as many variations as there are pension plans and marriages. This is an area where the use of an experienced attorney can be a necessity. If you need my help, go to my web site at www.peppler law.com or call my office for a consult.