If you’re getting divorced, you need to carefully consider all of the assets to which you have a right. One of the assets that is easiest to forget and yet potentially very valuable is your ex’s pension or work-sponsored retirement fund.
In cases where your ex earned that retirement plan during your marriage, it may be viewed as a marital asset. What makes this easy to overlook is that your ex may not yet be getting payments. The employer controls the plan until their worker’s retirement. Some individuals do not even realize that their spouse has a retirement plan and do not fully understand the benefits they receive at work.
When the pension is marital property, though, you can divide the amount that was earned while the two of you were married, just as you would if your spouse earned money and set it aside in a bank account. In fact, many employees take lower bi-weekly payments in order to put more into their retirement funds, so it’s clear that this really is an asset earned during the marriage — not just a future payment that your ex should get alone.
To divide the pension plan, even if your spouse has not yet retired, you can use a document known as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). It lays out the details of how much of the pension you deserve and how to route that percentage to you from the monthly payments. When your ex does retire, you should get paid that percentage at the same time that they do.
When dealing with complicated financial assets, you must know your legal options.